Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have a strategy to actually kill President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran—rather than “play fight” against it, as GOP leadership wants to do.
“House Freedom Caucus members are poised to demand Wednesday that Republican leaders delay a vote on an Iran disapproval resolution until the White House has revealed all ‘side deals’ with Iran,” Roll Call’s Matt Fuller wrote late Tuesday. “And if GOP leaders don’t delay the Iran disapproval resolution, HFC members are discussing voting down the rule for the resolution on Wednesday.”
Fuller quotes Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) detailing the newly emerging strategy.
Meadows is the House Freedom Caucus member who has put forward a resolution containing a motion to vacate the chair—a fancy term for throwing House Speaker John Boehner out. The strategy centers around the fact that President Obama has not followed the law with regard to the Iran deal, specifically a bill that was signed into law from Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and therefore the deal is no good.
“I think the plan is just to say that there’s a law on Corker-Cardin, it hasn’t been followed, we can’t ignore it, so to continue on with a vote in light of the administration not adhering to the law would be erroneous and really usurp the authority of Congress,” Meadows told Roll Call.
Fuller wrote that it’s expected, according to one member he spoke with, that the House Freedom Caucus members would band together to vote down a rule to bring the Iran deal disapproval resolution to the floor of the House this week if Boehner and his leadership team insist on moving this through Congress as quickly as seems to be happening.
“An HFC member who spoke on the condition of anonymity later told CQ Roll Call that, while the Freedom Caucus did not come to an official position on voting down the rule for the Iran nuclear resolution, he believes HFC members would band together to do so if leadership does not heed member advice during Wednesday morning’s weekly conference meeting,” Fuller wrote.
Voting down a rule is one of the most significant acts against one’s own party’s leadership that members can make. It’s normally expected that members of a majority vote for rules, and then cast their consequential votes on the legislation.
But voting against the rule is seen as a public protest of leadership’s strategy—in this case, not really fighting against the Obama-Iran deal—and if they’re successful in taking the rule down or forcing Democrats to vote for the rule, Boehner’s authority as Speaker of the House will be severely weakened. Conservatives tried, almost successfully, a similar strategy when it came to Obamatrade votes earlier in the year, but this time they will likely have a better shot at success because there’s even more of a national anti-political class mood now and the Iran deal is extremely unpopular.
Members are furious that Boehner is considering desecrating the 14-year-anniversary of the Al Qaeda-led terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11 as the day the House would vote to “play fight,” as National Review’s Andy McCarthy calls it, against the Iran deal rather than really trying to stop it.
“Overall, members reported the majority of the discussion Tuesday night during the HFC meeting was dedicated to Iran and whether it was appropriate to start debate Wednesday and hold a vote Friday, which is Sept. 11,” Fuller wrote about the meeting, noting that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) was furious. “You gotta be kidding me!” Gosar told him.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), another conservative, previously told Breitbart News that Boehner’s move to hold the Iran “play fight” vote on Sept. 11 made the House GOP leadership worse than Neville Chamberlain, the late 1930s British Prime Minister who infamously declared he had reached a deal with German dictator Adolf Hitler that would deliver “peace for our time.”
More importantly, however, Fuller noted that members are upset that the Obama administration has not provided Congress with the full details of “side deals” between “Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
“Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., offered a privileged motion Tuesday for a vote on a resolution that states the House should not act on the Iran nuclear legislation until it receives all ‘side deals,’” Fuller wrote. “Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president is obligated to send Congress ‘all related materials and annexes,’ and until the president does that, the 60-day clock for a vote on Iran does not start.”
National Review’s McCarthy laid out in two recent columns how the GOP could actually stop the Iran deal from going through, by asserting its authority in Congress, something Boehner seems hell-bent on avoiding.
“It is an easy one, because all that the Republican-controlled Congress has to do, if it really wants to derail this thing, is follow the law that they wrote and Obama signed, the Corker law — the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, sometimes also known as ‘Corker-Cardin,’ after Senate sponsors Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D., Md.),” McCarthy writes of his strategy in one of the columns. “Sadly, in another iteration of the anger that is the wind beneath Donald Trump’s wings, many readers insist that GOP leadership has no intention to block Obama on Iran. If that is so, it is passing strange. The national-security threat here is grave. Plus, how much credibility can Republicans have (maybe I should just end the sentence there) in complaining about Obama’s disregard of federal law if they won’t even follow the law they themselves enacted just four months ago?”
McCarthy specified in the other first column exactly how Republicans can kill Obama’s deal with Iran.
“While maddening, the Corker bill is not an abject congressional surrender to Obama and Tehran,” McCarthy wrote.
It is a conditional surrender. It would grant Obama grudging congressional endorsement of the deal in the absence of a now unattainable veto-proof resolution of disapproval, but only if Obama fulfills certain basic terms. Obama has not complied with the most basic one: the mandate that he provide the complete Iran deal for Congress’s consideration. Therefore, notwithstanding Washington’s frenzied assumption that the 60-day period for a congressional vote is winding down, the clock has never actually started to run. Congress’s obligations under Corker have never been triggered; the Corker process is moot.
McCarthy argues that Republicans who are just going through the motions of the Corker-Cardin bill by pushing a disapproval resolution under it, rather than fighting Obama to comply with the law, are “play fighting” against the Iran deal.
‘“Surrender . . . Then Play-Fight’ is Republican leadership’s shameful approach to ‘governing,’” McCarthy wrote in the second column. “The quotes around ‘governing’ are intentional. After voters, having trusted the GOP’s 2014 campaign promises to block Obama’s agenda, gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) notoriously said that the party’s primary objective was to show the public that it could ‘govern.’”
This example with regard to Iran is no different, he argues.
And for now, according to Fuller’s report in Roll Call, it looks like Boehner’s leadership team is moving forward with their plans to “play fight” against the Iran deal while actually surrendering and not really fighting against it.
“On the same day that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz hold a Capitol Hill rally urging Congress to reject this deal, it will be pretty hard to argue that we should let Democrats off the hook and not take a stand at all,” a “senior GOP aide”—code for someone from the offices of Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or House Majority Whip Steve Scalise—told Roll Call on Tuesday evening.
No wonder why Boehner doesn’t have enough GOP votes to survive Meadows’ motion to vacate the chair should it come up this fall, according to Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC).
Mulvaney told Breitbart News on Tuesday that Boehner would need Democrats to survive if there were a speakership election held now. Those people coming out to the rally against the Iran deal can see right through congressional leadership’s “play fight.” What happens next, of course, is not entirely clear—but Congress is in for a bumpy ride for the rest of September.