By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, Thursday, May 7, 2015 - Senators voted overwhelmingly Thursday to force President Obama to submit to Congress any nuclear deal he reaches with Iran, giving lawmakers a final say before the administration cancels economic sanctions on the Islamic nation.
The 98-1 tally in favor of the bill was a rebuke to Mr. Obama, who had wanted to have a free hand to negotiate with Iran, but will now have to make sure whatever terms he strikes can gain approval of enough members of Congress to stick.
The House must still vote to approve the deal, but passage there is all but certain later this month. read moreThe vote was 98-1 with only Tom Cotton of Arkansas voting "no." The objection of Cotton, as well as that of some conservative advocacy groups, is that Congress was giving up its powers by putting the burden on Congress to stop a deal, rather than on the White House to sell the deal. “A nuclear-arms agreement with any adversary — especially the terror-sponsoring, Islamist Iranian regime — should be submitted as a treaty and obtain a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate as required by the Constitution,” said Senator Cotton.
Of course, in theory, he and the conservative advocacy groups who argue that point of view are correct. An agreement to end sanctions and impose a nuclear arms agreement should be considered a treaty and should go to Congress. But, as a practical matter, that was not going to happen. President Obama was going to approve a deal without Congressional review. He was not gong to call the deal a "treaty" and submit it to Congress and Congress was not going to make him. A President can rule by fiat if Congress allows it. The constitution does not enforce itself. Congress was not going to impeach President Obama for failure to submit an Iran agreement to Congress. What we ended up with is a strong, almost unanimous vote to require the President to submit it to Congress.
When submitted to Congress, Congress will be given a month to pass a resolution of disapproval. If they do not pass a disapproval motion then the deal is approved. If they do, the President may veto it. If the President vetoes the disapproval resolution then it would take two-thirds vote in both houses to override the veto. So, a determined one-third could stop a veto override.
I would much prefer we follow the Constitution, but at least this will get a public airing of the deal. If will get the issue in the news. There can be debate and hearings. If it is a bad deal, the public will learn of it. If it passes by only the support of one-third of one house of Congress, the public will question the wisdom of the deal and also the world will know the President does not have the support of the country in approving the deal. This is not a great way to pass a treaty, this is not the way it should be done, this is not the way the Constitutions lays it out; but, this is a heck of a lot better than no congressional input at all and that was what was going to happen.
Also, should the deal be approved with only one-third support of one house, Congress my impose new sanctions. The deal may not be a done deal even if President Obama can maintain a veto.
Congratulations to Bob Corker for pulling this off. I know some fire-brand conservatives will think Bob Corker is a traitor for passing this piece of legislation. If they do, then they must think the same thing of everyone who voted for it. That is Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, and Mike Lee. Do they really think only Tom Cotton got it right?