Former Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the agreement to be a “good deal” in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. His support is surprising to some, given his strong record on foreign policy, including a leading role in helping to sell the US Congress on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Additionally, Florida Representative and Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz announced her intention to vote against a resolution of disapproval for the nuclear deal, which will come up for votes in the House and the Senate by next Thursday.
Her approval was very much in doubt, considering her Jewish background, the political leaning of her constituency, and the fact that she previously blocked a DNC resolution expressing support for the president’s approach to the Iran issue. Her status within the Democratic Party might have swayed more skeptical Democrats to join in the staunch Republican opposition to the deal, had she come down on the other side.
But now that Wasserman-Schultz is reportedly committed to voting in favor of the deal, it is possible that her colleagues in the upper chamber of Congress may have further incentive to help push the president’s support to a level that would allow for a filibuster and prevent Obama from having to use his veto power.
Given a strong Republican majority, supported by 15 Democratic representatives so far, the resolution of disapproval is certain to pass the House. But the Senate remains a battleground as only three Democrats have come out against the deal while five remain publicly undecided. If three of these join in support of the president, it will be sufficient for a filibuster.
However, an article from the Associated Press suggested on Monday that this may still be an unlikely outcome. Notwithstanding the support of the DNC chair, her support may be largely counterbalanced by the clout of the three Democratic Senators opposing the deal. The latest of these is Maryland’s Ben Cardin, who joins Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Charles Schumer of New York.
The AP states that Cardin’s position makes the presidential goal of a filibuster considerably more difficult to obtain, even though it has come too late to affect any chances of defeating the presidential veto. What remains to be seen, then, is whether Cardin and other Democratic opponents of the nuclear deal will join their Republican colleagues in attempting to take other measures against its full implementation.
A number of propositions have already begun to be discussed, and Townhall reported on Monday that among these there is Texas Representative Louie Gohmert’s plan to introduce a resolution to reclassify the Iran nuclear agreement as a treaty rather than an executive agreement. Doing so would require that the agreement be ratified by both chambers of Congress, and their refusal to do so would not be subject to a veto.
While it is likely that a treaty would be defeated, it is unlikely that Gohmert and supporters of his resolution would succeed in such reclassification. If President Obama has enough congressional support to block a resolution of disapproval, he presumably has enough support to block other resolutions that would have virtually identical effects of blocking full implementation.
Still, by raising the new resolution, Gohmert is able to use it to highlight certain points of contention with the nuclear deal. For instance, he has argued that a treaty is the correct designation for the nuclear agreement in part because its effects go beyond its original, narrow intent and include provisions outside of the nuclear sphere, such as the eventual cancellation of sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile and conventional weapons capabilities.
Meanwhile, according to the AP, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman agreed that the nuclear deal was worthy of the status of a treaty, adding that if it had been treated as one in congressional debate, more Democrats would be willing to break with the president and give opponents the votes they needed to block it outright.
In an editorial published on Monday, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the author of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, also invoked the difference between a treaty and an executive agreement. He noted that the existing status of the nuclear deal will make it easier to pass through Congress but will also prevent it from being binding on future presidential administrations or the US government as a whole.
Thus, Republicans may have broad authority to act contrary to the Obama administration’s policy of rapprochement in the future. This is in contrast to the resolution of disapproval, which the AP characterizes as largely symbolic, having relatively little practical effect even in the unlikely event that it passes. Nevertheless, Corker’s editorial emphasizes that that symbolic gesture is important and that the resolution of disapproval should be allowed to go to a vote so as to let every legislator’s constituency understand where he or she stands on the issue.
Recent polls tend to indicate that a majority of the American public is against the deal. And the Wall Street Journal added on Monday that the near-unanimous Republican opposition to the deal does not show any signs that it will waver even once the agreement goes into effect. This stands to contribute to an unprecedented level of partisanship in a foreign policy measure of this magnitude. Awareness of such a division of political willpower may provide Republicans and their Democratic supporters with a great deal of political cover when pursuing policy initiatives that go against President Obama’s current strategies.