House Conservatives Push For Pointless Delay In Iran Nuclear Deal Vote

Some House Republicans are trying to delay the vote on the Iran Nuclear Deal with an argument that has no merit whatsoever.

Iran Nuclear Deal Congress

House Republicans have delayed the scheduled beginning of debate on the Iran Nuclear Deal because of a revolt by some conservatives in the House GOP Caucus who are seeking to delay the vote:

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders on Wednesday postponed debate on President Obama’s landmark nuclear accord with Iran amid a revolt by some Republicans who claimed the White House had not disclosed secret side agreements on the deal.

The delay of the historic debate because of Republican infighting opened a new twist in the White House’s effort to move forward with the accord, but it appeared it would have little impact on its prospects. Under the legislation passed this spring that gave Congress a say in the nuclear deal, lawmakers have until mid-September to approve or disapprove the accord. If they do nothing, it goes into force.

On Tuesday, the administration succeeded in securing the votes needed in the Senate to block the Republican disapproval resolution on the deal in that chamber, sparing Mr. Obama from having to use his veto pen.

But even as the White House seemed to sidestep the potential diplomatic embarrassment that might accompany such a veto, some Republicans in the House were opening a new line of attack against the deal.

Led by Representatives Peter Roskam of Illinois and Mike Pompeo of Kansas, they alleged that there were secret side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will help enforce the nuclear agreement, and that the text of those agreements had not been disclosed to Congress.

Under a law adopted in April, reflecting a compromise between the White House and Republican leaders, Congress was given a formal role in approving the Iran deal, with a vote to follow a 60-day review process. The 60-day period was to begin upon transmittal of the text of the agreement.

Administration officials have repeatedly said an agreement between Iran and the atomic agency over past nuclear research at a military facility called Parchin was not connected to the deal made by Iran and six world powers to contain its nuclear program.

The I.A.E.A., which has long had a role in monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, is not covered by Congress’s Iran Nuclear Review Act, and the White House does not have the documents Republicans have demanded, administration officials have said, both in public hearings and private, classified sessions.

Still, the Republican critics now say the 60-day clock should never have started ticking and a vote — as expected this week on a resolution disapproving the accord — would be premature.

Top House Republicans, all of whom are opposed to the deal, don’t see any merit in the objections:

Boehner loyalists said Wednesday they saw little point in delaying the planned Friday vote.

“I think it’s pretty clear that a month and a half ago that we understood that Sept. 17 would be the drop-dead date and the week we’re doing it is a little late to bring up the argument,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), the Rules Committee chairman, referring to the deadline established in the review law.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), an outspoken critic of the Iran deal, said he saw little point in delaying an Iran vote: “It will be perceived by the American people that we abdicated,” he said. “I think we have an obligation to be heard on this, to vote on it. … Otherwise the average person is just going to think we’re afraid.”

And contra Fleming, he said he doubted the side deals would make any difference in the outcome of a disapproval vote: “I understand the point they’re trying to make, but it’s not going to change anyone’s vote.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who today joined Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for a rally against the deal outside the Capitol Building, has called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take a similar position regarding the Administration’s alleged lack of compliance with the terms of the Iran Nuclear Review Act, but McConnell has shot down the idea:

Tea-Party firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined the House GOP effort Wednesday by panning an upcoming Senate vote on the disapproval resolution as a “show vote” and putting pressure on McConnell to delay it.But McConnell rejected the gambit in a press conference with reporters.

“As I understand law, once Sept. 17 passes is it not the case that the president will take the view that he is free to go forward,” to lift sanctions, he said.

McConnell then called on Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to offer a more detailed rebuttal.

“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 Senate disapproval resolution is expected to fail because 42 Democratic senators have already announced their support for the nuclear deal, giving them enough votes to sustain a filibuster.

Even if McConnell were able to push the disapproval measure through the Senate, Obama will veto it and Republicans are far short of the two-thirds majority they need to override that action.

There is, of course, no merit to the argument that Congressman Roskam and others are making, which is essentially that the 60 day time limit set forth in the Iran Nuclear Review Act never started because the Administration didn’t turn over all of the documents regarding the deal that was reached in Zurich. Principally, they are pointing to the fact that there are agreement between Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency governing some of the technical details about how inspections will be taking place once the agreement is actually in force and effect. These agreements, though, were never part of the Zurich negotiations, the IAEA was not a party to those negotiations, and they are not part of the agreement that was signed by all the parties’ representatives in July. By its own terms, the law states that the sixty day countdown begins when the Administration delivers the agreement between the United States along with the other members of the ‘P5+1’ group and the Islamic Republic of Iran. It makes no mention of the IAEA, not the least because the IAEA is an independent international organization over when Congress has no oversight and the Administration has no control.  The Administration provided Congress with all of the relevant documents related to the Zurich agreement in mid-July and the sixty period expires on September 17th. This effort to delay the vote would accomplish nothing because delaying the vote past the deadline means that the Administration is free to assume that the deal has been approved and to begin lifting sanctions as set forth in the agreement. Additionally, and also independent of any action by Congress, the sanctions imposed by other members of the ‘P5+1’ and the United Nations will also begin to be lifted. Delaying the vote by pretending that the 60 day countdown never began is a completely pointless move that would just result in the President being able to move forward with the deal without Congress even voting on it.

In the end, this is really nothing more than a sign of desperation from the more adamant opponents of the deal with Iran. We already know that Democrats in the Senate, and probably the House as well, have enough votes to block any attempt to override President Obama’s expected veto of a disapproval motion should it pass Congress. It also appears that Senate Democrats will have enough votes to filibuster a disapproval motion and prevent a final vote from even taking place. The outcome of the vote is foreordained, and likely has been since this process began months ago. At this point, the opponents are no doubt frustrated by the fact that they can’t do anything to stop the deal even though they control Congress, and they’re blaming the leadership for agreeing to Iran Nuclear Review Act to begin with, although if they hadn’t agreed to it, it’s probable that the Administration may have tried to proceed with the agreement without Congress voting on it at all since it is technically not considered a treaty. As I said yesterday, this is just another sign of the rebellions that John Boehner and the House leadership are likely to face this fall. Congress is barely back one day, and it looks like the infighting has already begun.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mu says:

    I’m still surprised the Boehner is enough of a narcissist to stay in charge of that house of cats. Or maybe he’s just trying to save what’s left of the GOP name by hiding just how many loonies they sent to congress.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who today joined Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson

    So the Republican brain-trust…why didn’t you just say so.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Ted Cruz, who today joined Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson

    Good lord, Doug. That’s a worse mental picture than Kim Davis, her husband, and Huckabee together.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @Mu: I don’t think party loyalty has a whole lot to do with it. I expect being Speaker does wonders for his fund raising.

  5. dazedandconfused says:

    Boehner and the other big boys aren’t grubbing in the streets for Free $peach as Common People politicians are forced to do for their very survival. They clearly believe there are still some suckers to panhandle with their “Save Israel!” signs so they naturally object when elites wantonly decide to slap it out of their hands.

    Even a surplus of Free $peach of Cantorian levels is not proof against the kind of wing-nuts who run party primaries these days. Those states have serious business Christianists who could primary Jesus himself out of office if he were to criticize the people who “wrote the Bible”.

  6. Grewgills says:

    At this point, the opponents are no doubt frustrated by the fact that they can’t do anything to stop the deal even though they control Congress

    I don’t know about that. I think that a significant number of the opponents understand how bad it would be for the deal to fail at this point. I think most of those that understand that (I would include Cruz) are happy to be able to play frustrated and point fingers and blame everyone but themselves for all that is wrong in the world. They would be disappointed if they succeeded in stopping the deal and ended up responsible for the aftermath. It’s much better to fight the good fight and always lose. For another excellent example of this, see opposition to abortion.*

    * At the state level considerable harm is being done, but at the national level it’s kabuki for the rubes.

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    The Republicans just want to drag this out so they can demagogue it some more. I see no reason for the House leadership to give into that nonsense. The deal is happening. Time to move on.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz

    The man who let a Huckabee flunky keep him off the stage for the money shot with Kim Davis yesterday. Yea, this guy should be President…

  9. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: Alright. I see where General Powell has given his approval of this agreement and says that if Iran does not live up to their end of the deal, then the US and other countries can revoke the thing. Powell always seems like a level headed, smart general. So, okay, I will give my tentative and very reserved support to this agreement. I read a very well written opinion by Dr. Kissinger and former Secretary George Schultz in the Wall Street Journal. They both give the president and Secretary Kerry credit and respect for pushing for this agreement. They outline their concerns and some problems with the agreement. The most important thing they feel needs to happen is a clear American “strategic doctrine for the region.” Thoughts of General Gordon, Allenby, and Lawrence come to mind: legends in their own time and instrumental leaders in the middle east.
    I would like to have heard the opinions of Acheson and Dean Rusk, but they are not available.
    (“The Iran Deal and Its Consequences” NYT)
    If this thing goes down in flames or blows up, count me out.
    This weekend the Pope comes to the US. The Pope will address Congress The Pope will address the UN.The Pope will talk to the President in the White House . What is going on with that ? Why now ? Does this have anything to do with the Iran agreement ?
    “Don’t go around tonight …there’s a bad moon on the rise” (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

  10. Franklin says:

    Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who today joined Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for a rally against the deal outside the Capitol Building

    Wait, wait! Phil is against this? Why didn’t anybody tell me earlier?

  11. michael reynolds says:


    Half a dozen retired Israeli intelligence chiefs also support the deal. When Shin Bet guys support the deal, you’ve got to start questioning the universal GOP opposition. What do a bunch of Congressmen from Tennessee and Arkansas know about Israeli security that Shin Bet doesn’t? Answer: not a damn thing.

    Once again, the right-wing media has lied to you. And you bought it. But there’s hope for you, Tyrell: you will still listen to evidence. That sets you apart from most of our right-wing friends.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    None of this Republican kabuki has anything to do with an honest evaluation of the Iran Deal and the practical reality of abandoning this deal at this late date. This has everything to do with the fact that Obama is in the White House. Republican enmity and hostility to the president led them to use Netanyahu and invite him to come here and attempt to derail the negotiation as part of his own domestic political campaign.

    Let’s drop the pretense that Republican opposition has much to do with the merits of the deal: at this time it appears that a total of zero Republicans out of a combined 300 congressman and senators will support of the deal.

  13. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: That is something I will give Tyrell credit for. He does listen and usually comes around on issues after some time.

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