WASHINGTON: Republicans in the House of Representatives continued their efforts to thwart the international nuclear accord with Iran, though the Senate has already sealed its fate in Congress and delivered President Barack Obama a major victory on his top foreign policy priority.
Democrats overcame ferocious Republican opposition to uphold the agreement in the Senate, where a disapproval resolution fell just short of the votes needed to move forward. Most Democratic and independent senators banded together against it, all but guaranteeing that the measure would not reach Obama’s desk and the nuclear deal would move forward unchecked by a Congress controlled by Republicans.
It’s an improbable win by Obama in the face of staunch opposition from the state of Israel and Republicans in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail. But Republicans remained committed to working against the international accord, as members of the House of Representatives continued to pursue eleventh-hour strategies to derail it against all odds and Senate Republicans promised a re-vote.
After statements on the floor Friday recognizing the Sept. 11 anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the international agreement, which gives Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for imposing restraints on its nuclear program. The House is to vote later Friday on whether to approve of the nuclear deal.
“This isn’t just a bad deal,” Royce said. “It’s disastrous deal. It’s a disaster for the United States. It’s a disaster for our allies and friends in the region, including Israel. … We got permanent sanctions relief for the Iranian regime — relief that’s going to go into their military — in exchange for temporary constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.”
Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called the measure to suspend until January 2017 the president’s authority to waive, suspend or reduce sanctions on Iran a politically motivated attack on Obama.
“This is not a serious attempt to legislate. Quite simply, it’s a political attack on the president of the United States and an attempt to derail a good deal that is in the best interest of our nation,” Conyers said.
Beginning next week, Obama will be free to start scaling back U.S. sanctions to implement the agreement negotiated by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers. The accord aims to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.
Opponents never had much chance of blocking the deal in Congress, where Democratic minorities in the House and Senate could secure a win for Obama simply by upholding his veto of a disapproval resolution. Yet it was widely expected in the days after the nuclear deal was signed July 14 that Obama would have to use his veto pen.
Despite poll numbers showing significant public concern about the agreement, opposition never seemed to catch fire among Democrats or voters over the summer. In the end, instead of registering unified opposition to the deal, congressional Republicans turned the debate into the latest occasion for infighting within the party and between the House and Senate.
the House, Republicans had not given up on blocking the deal. After backtracking on plans to vote on the disapproval resolution when it began to look short of support in the Senate, House Republicans lined up votes on several related measures.
Late Thursday they agreed on a party-line 245-186 vote to a measure specifying that Obama had not properly submitted all documents related to the accord for Congress’ review, and therefore a 60-day review clock had not really started.