Senate Democrats Succeed In Filibuster Of Vote Against Iran Nuclear Deal
Senate Democrats successfully blocked a final vote on the Iran Nuclear Deal, meaning that Congressional debate on the matter is effectively over.
As expected, Senate Democrats were able to successful block a final Senate vote on a motion disapproving of the Iran Nuclear Deal, effectively meaning that the deal will pass the September 17th deadline for Congressional action and move forward to implementation:
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats delivered a major victory to President Obama on Thursday when they blocked a Republican resolution to reject a six-nation nuclear accord with Iran, ensuring that the landmark deal will take effect without a veto showdown between Congress and the White House.
A procedural vote fell short of the number needed to break a Democraticfilibuster. It culminated hours of debate on the Senate floor and capped months of discord since the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China announced the agreement with Iran in July.
Debate over the accord divided Democrats between their loyalties to the president and their constituents, especially Jewish ones, animated the antiwar movement on the left and exposed the waning power of the Israeli lobbying force that spent millions to prevent the accord.
“Regardless of how one feels about the agreement,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, one of four Democrats to vote against the president, “fair-minded Americans should acknowledge the president’s strong achievements in combating and containing Iran.”
Acknowledging the tortured decision he and other skeptical Democrats traveled, Mr. Schumer said, “I also have a great deal of respect for the careful thought and deliberation my colleagues went through,” adding, “I recognize for them, that this is a vote of conscience just as it is for me.”
Yet President Obama’s triumph in securing the international agreement — without the support of a single member of the party now in control of Congress — is refashioning the definition of victory for a waning presidency in an era of divided government.
While bipartisan victories tend to be those most celebrated outside Washington, in the current political climate, success by the president is now often measured more by the scope of the policy achieved than by any claim of sweeping consensus. And losing has its own evolving meaning. Republicans will use Mr. Obama’s triumphs — as they did with the health care law — as a means to attack Democrats in anticipation of next year’s election.
Mr. Obama may go down in history as a president whose single biggest foreign policy and domestic achievements were won with no Republican votes, a stark departure from his 2008 campaign that was fueled by the promise of uniting. As with the Iran accord, the health care law — passed exclusively with Democratic votes — was a policy achievement that has come to define his presidency, in part through the vehemence of its opponents in Congress.
“President Obama can claim that he found a way to move an extremely important, yet controversial, diplomatic agreement through the political process,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University. “For conservatives the deal fulfills every negative view that they have about how President Obama and the way Democrats handle foreign threats,” he added. “The narrative is built for the campaign trail — a Democratic president agrees to drop sanctions on a horrible regime that even most Democrats agree shows little signs of reform.”
With the announcement last week that Democrats have achieved sufficient support to block an override of President Obama’s veto of a disapproval resolution, followed by the news that it had sufficient additional support to block cloture, this result was largely inevitable. Even Delaware Senator Chris Coons, who had previously expressed the opinion that the Senate should have a full vote on the measure even though he supported the deal, ended up voting with his fellow Democrats to block cloture. Coons was joined by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell who had been the last Democratic Senator to have announced their position on the deal. There were, of course, the usual complaints from Republicans about the Senate being blocked from an up or down vote on the resolution, but the fact that these were the same complaints that they brushed aside when they were using the filibuster quite effectively when Democrats controlled Senate tended to make those complaints seem somewhat hypocritical. As I’ve said before, it seems to me that it would be preferable for their to be an up or down vote on a matter as significant as this, but in some sense that’s exactly what we had today since it’s fairly obvious that the final vote on the bill would have been the same as it was today. The only thing that today’s vote really accomplished is avoiding a veto override fight that would have gone the President’s way anyway.
Over in the House, things aren’t quite going as smoothly as they did in the Senate. There was supposed to have been a vote on a disapproval resolution as early as yesterday, but that was delayed thanks to objections by conservative members of the GOP Caucus who advanced an argument that the President had not complied with the requirements of the Iran Nuclear Review Act. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected this argument, and made clear after today’s vote that the Senate would not consider anything sent over by the House unless it actually had a chance of passing Congress. As things stand, it now appears that the House may vote on something tomorrow, allegedly as part of a Republican scheme to get Democrats on the record on this issue on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, but even that seems to be up in the air at this point.
Whatever happens in the House, though, today’s developments in the Senate are essentially the end of the road for Congressional review of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Once we pass September 17th, the President will be free to implementing American obligations under the agreement, and the United Nations and other members of the ‘P5+1’ will do the same. From that point forward, the debate will move from whether or not the deal should be approved to whether or not Iran is complying with it. Republicans, no doubt, will continue to argue against the deal, with many of the Republican candidates for President promising to dismantle the deal on their first day in office. In reality, of course, that would prove to be exceedingly difficult if there is no real evidence that Iran is not complying with the agreement, not the least because it would difficult in those circumstances to convince our allies in Europe to go along with us. Indeed, today, David Cameron, Francois Hollande, and Angela Merkel, wrote a joint Op-Ed in The Washington Post in supporting that makes it clear that our allies don’t look too kindly on the some of the rhetoric coming from the GOP regarding this agreement. How that might affect international relations if a Republican manages to win the 2016 election I’ll leave for the future to determine.
The deal negotiated in Zurich is far from perfect, but diplomatic agreements seldom are. Additionally, there is much about the internal and external policies of the Iranian regime that are still troublesome and problematic. However, the agreement does provide a real framework for a peaceful resolution of the contentious issue of Iran’s nuclear program, and it offers the international community far greater access to that program than it had previously. Additionally, the critics of the agreement have never really offered a realistic alternative to what’s on table other than to say that a “better deal” could have been negotiated. That’s a completely hypothetical scenario, though, and there’s not really very much evidence to support it. With this agreement, the international community gets real reductions in those aspects of the nuclear program that could lead to weapons development, an agreed framework of inspections by the IAEA, and a means to reimpose sanctions if Iran fails to comply with the agreement. It may not be perfect, and it’s likely that we’ll face disputes under the agreement going forward, but it’s better than the status quo, which could lead to Iran having a bomb within less than a year, and it’s better than the vision offered by the opposition.