Sen. Schumer and 7 Other Democrats Are Making a Terrible Choice Siding With GOP on Iran Bill
Chuck Schumer, the expected replacement as top Senate Democrat when Harry Reid retires at the end of his term, has made a big splash in the past few days by saying he supports a bill designed to give Congress the clout to wreck a deal with Iran. He is not, of course, the only Democrat backing the Corker-Menendez bill, S. 615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Since March 26, when Schumer quietly signed on as the latest of eight Democratic co-sponsors of the bill, it's had 21 co-sponsors, including one independent, Sen. Angus King of Maine.
But given his clout, Schumer could be key to making it okay for other Democrats to support the bill, giving it the 67 votes it would need to override the veto that President Obama has vowed to impose.
The bill is scheduled for mark-up in the Foreign Relations Committee Monday when the Senate returns from its Easter recess, with a committee vote expected Tuesday. The Obama administration has been "publicly stroking" Bob Corker, the committee chair and its leading Republican sponsor, to introduce amendments that would make the bill more palatable.
The White House now views its central challenge as either negotiating a compromise with Mr. Corker or stopping enough Democrats from joining him so that he is short of a veto-proof majority, at least through June 30, the deadline to translate last week’s preliminary agreement with Iran onto paper. After that, officials said, Mr. Obama may be in a stronger position to argue the merits of the accord.
Corker is seen as someone who can be worked with because he has a record of trying to get things done rather than trying to maintain the Republican Party's current reputation as the Party of No. He was one of seven Republicans who didn't sign the outrageous Tom Cotton letter to Iran's leaders warning them that any deal President Obama agrees to could be changed once he is out of office. Corker already made changes suggested by Sen. Tim Kaine, who signed on as a co-sponsor once that happened.
Currently, the president has authority to lift most of the sanctions on Iran through the Treasury Department without congressional approval. As it stands, the bill would not give Congress power to kill an agreement outright. But it would give it the opportunity to pass another bill rejecting any deal with Iran. After an agreement is completed, Congress would have 60 days to review it, during which time the president would be barred "from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions."
If Congress approves an agreement or lets it stand without acting, the president can start lifting sanctions, something the Iranian negotiators, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says, is crucial to getting Tehran to sign. But if the Senate and House pass a resolution rejecting the agreement with enough votes to override a veto, then Obama loses his authority over the sanctions. Thus, even though any agreement would be a multilateral arrangement with the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran, the wrench a hostile Congress might stick into the works could sabotage it.
Passing the bill in its current form, particularly passing it before June 30, could very well have the opposite effect its sponsors claim for it. Instead of forcing Iran to curtail its nuclear program and keep it from building the nuclear weapons its leaders say they don't want, it could persuade the other Security Council members to abandon the sanctions on Iran and give the hard-liners of Iran an argument for giving their country the capability of building a bomb within a few months if it decided to do so. Which makes the Corker-Menendez bill foolish and dangerous. Schumer and the Democrats who have joined him in support of the bill should think and think again. This supposed bipartisanship is a reckless move.