As Democrats have accumulated enough votes to defeat, one way or another, a Congressional vote to reject the Iran deal, it’s started to look like the deal might become the foreign policy version of Obamacare, with deal opponents repeatedly trying to pick the deal apart piece by piece in an infinite number of future votes. Ben Cardin’s “Kill the Deal By ‘Strengthening’ It” bill looked like the first move in this longer-term plan of attack. But today House Republicans decided to try a different tactic; instead of taking a bunch of presumably failed votes on various plans to scuttle the deal, they’re not going to take any vote on the deal at all. Not even the one that their own Corker-Cardin Iran Review Act requires them to take within 60 days of when the deal was presented to Congress. Instead, they’re going to vote on a resolution that says they don’t have to take even that seemingly mandatory vote, because the Obama administration never actually presented the deal to them. This way they can keep carping about the deal 24/7, without even making a pretense of doing anything about it like they sometimes have to do with Obamacare.
Obviously, that’s patently bullshit, but these guys are going to pretend that the administration never submitted the full deal to Congress on account of how it didn’t include the terms of those scary-sounding but entirely normal “secret side deals” between Iran and the IAEA. Which, of course, it couldn’t possibly have done, since the IAEA keeps the details of agreements like that confidential (which they do because no country would ever conclude any agreement whatsoever with the IAEA otherwise). There’s no non-bullshit way to read the Corker-Cardin bill as requiring the administration to brief Congress about the contents of any agreement that it didn’t make with Iran and whose contents it never had in the first place. But this may be (and I stress may; the caucus is still discussing it internally) the new plan for fighting the deal. Democrats in the Senate will presumably block a resolution that says the administration failed to fully submit the deal to Congress, but meanwhile that mandatory vote may never happen.
Max Fisher at Vox thinks this is a smart political move that will let Republicans turn the deal into another Benghazi, meaning a generalized smear campaign against the administration that has little substance to it and achieved even littler in the way of tangible results. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, on the other hand, writes that Republicans are “snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat.” I’m not sure it matters, since on the practical front deal opponents have lost either way. But I think I come down on Fisher’s side here. For a political party that only exists on the vapors of hinted conspiracies and fringe scandals and has no interest in actually participating in the governing process, perpetually claiming that the Iran deal is tainted by some ill-defined “scandal” is a win.
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