House Republicans are changing course to take up a last-minute plan to oppose the Iran nuclear deal following a revolt from some of the conference’s conservative members.
Instead of a single vote to disapprove the deal, the House will now hold three separate votes on the agreement.
One would be a resolution to approve the deal — which is sure to fail and, in the process, force many Democrats to break with the White House.The second would be to express a sense of the House that the Obama administration has not met the requirements of the Iran review legislation by failing to give lawmakers the text of separate agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those bilateral side deals, which concern the details of inspections at some Iranian sites, are at the center of the House’s uprising over the Iran pact
Finally, the House would vote to prevent the U.S. from lifting sanctions on Iran as part of complying with the nuclear deal.
The House is still expected to finish votes regarding Iran on Friday, which is the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The House was originally slated to hold a procedural vote on Wednesday afternoon to begin 11 hours of debate on a resolution disapproving the deal.
But leadership called off that vote after getting an earful during a morning conference, with conservatives demanding that President Obama provide Congress with the text of agreements between Iran and international nuclear inspectors.
Without text of the side deals, some House Republicans say, the 60-day clock for reviewing the Iran deal hasn’t begun to tick.
“This clock has not started,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) insisted. “It doesn’t start until the deal is handed over and we haven’t seen the deal. It’s very simple.”
Under legislation approved earlier this year, Congress has 60 days to review the deal before the White House can begin lifting sanctions on Tehran. In return for sanctions relief, Iran has agreed to place limits upon its nuclear program and open it up to inspectors.
The White House has rejected calls to hand over evidence of the side deals, saying it doesn’t have the text to share. The administration has maintained that the IAEA’s decision to keep those documents secret is routine and central to how the international agency works.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a former member of the House GOP leadership who lost to Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) for the third-ranking post last year, offered a resolution on Tuesday that would prevent a vote on the Iran deal until all of the documents of the international agreement — including the deals between Iran and the IAEA — are provided to Congress for review.
Even if Roskam’s resolution passed the House, it’s unlikely to pass the Senate, where 42 Democrats support the Iran deal and could block the measure from a vote. And resorting to litigation could take months or even years to resolve — during which time Obama would be likely to lift the sanctions within his control.
The Senate, meanwhile, still plans to proceed with a resolution disapproving the Iran deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) both criticized the sudden House effort to delay a vote.
“What is difficult to understand is what the next course of action is if you take that position and don’t register bipartisan opposition today,” Corker said.
The White House also scoffed at the notion the vote should be delayed.
“Sounds like a plan hatched up at Tortilla Coast on a Tuesday night,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One, referring to a favorite gathering spot for conservatives on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is running for president, panned the Senate for bringing up a resolution of disapproval that’s nearly certain to fail.
“If Republican leadership decides that a show vote is more important than stopping this deal, then the single most important issue in 2016 is stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. This Iranian deal is catastrophic,” Cruz said during a Capitol Hill rally held jointly with GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a Freedom Caucus member, suggested Wednesday that allowing lawmakers to review the side agreements between Iran and the IAEA could even flip some Democrats to oppose the deal.
“Let’s say that something comes out that’s so hideous and so egregious that even Democrats wouldn’t dare go along with this deal,” Fleming said. “You don’t know what you don’t know. We didn’t know that the NSA was doing bulk collection of emails until we found out about it.”