Democrats dig in as Boehner threat­ens suit

Obama says op­tions are his Iran ac­cord or show of force

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Se­nate Democrats ral­lied be­hind Pres­i­dent Obama Thurs­day, suc­cess­fully fili­bus­ter­ing to pre­serve the deal he and in­ter­na­tional lead­ers struck to cur­tail Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, as House Speaker John A. Boehner threat­ened to sue the pres­i­dent to try and halt it.

With the Se­nate vote clear­ing the way for the White House to be­gin the process of lift­ing sanc­tions on the Is­lamic re­pub­lic next week, House Repub­li­cans were at­tempt­ing a last-ditch ef­fort to de­rail the deal, vot­ing to de­clare the pres­i­dent broke the law by not sub­mit­ting all of the Iran agree­ment to Congress for re­view. Mr. Boehner, af­ter a court vic­tory Wed­nes­day on another ma­jor leg­isla­tive-ex­ec­u­tive clash, raised the prospect of a new law­suit.

But Se­nate Repub­li­cans have re­jected that line of at­tack, and the pres­i­dent is ex­pected to use Thurs­day’s suc­cess­ful fil­i­buster as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for lift­ing the sanc­tions.

“This vote is a vic­tory for diplo­macy, for Amer­i­can na­tional se­cu­rity, and for the safety and se­cu­rity of the world,” the pres­i­dent said in a state­ment af­ter the Se­nate vote.

Op­po­nents dis­agreed, pre­dict­ing the deal, which gives Iran ac­cess to tens of bil­lions of dol­lars, al­lows it to build up its con­ven­tional forces, lets it con­tinue en­rich­ing ura­nium and sets the stage for an arms race in the Mid­dle East — and even­tu­ally for war.

“A deal that puts the Ira­nian regime and its ter­ror­ist al­lies one turn of a screw­driver away from a nu­clear weapon and a means of de­liv­er­ing it across the oceans makes war more likely,” said Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch, pres­i­dent pro tem­pore of the Se­nate.

GOP lead­ers said they’ll hold a revote next week, but bar­ring any changes from public pres­sure back home over the week­end, the out­come will be the same.

Only 42 sen­a­tors voted to back Mr. Obama, while four Democrats joined all 54 Repub­li­cans in the cham­ber in op­pos­ing the deal — two shy of the num­ber needed to sur­mount the fil­i­buster.

Congress was act­ing un­der the Iran Nu­clear Agree­ment Re­view Act, signed into law ear­lier this year, which re­quired Mr. Obama to sub­mit any deal with Iran to Capi­tol Hill. Law­mak­ers had 60 days to re­view it and ei­ther ap­prove it, take no ac­tion or dis­ap­prove of it.

Un­less Congress dis­ap­proved of the deal within the 60-day pe­riod, Mr. Obama is free to lift the crip­pling sanc­tions the U.S. im­posed on Iran and to un­freeze Ira­nian money held in for­eign banks. The pres­i­dent says that 60-day pe­riod is up Sept. 17.

House Repub­li­cans this week ar­gued that Mr. Obama is break­ing the law and the 60-day clock never started be­cause the pres­i­dent didn’t ac­tu­ally sub­mit the en­tire deal to Congress. They point to sev­eral side-agree­ments Iran signed with the In­ter­na­tional Atomic Energy Agency gov­ern­ing how much ac­cess in­spec­tors will have to Iran’s nu­clear sites.

The IAEA in­sists its agree­ments are pri­vate and can’t be sub­mit­ted to Congress, but Repub­li­cans say the Nu­clear Re­view Act doesn’t al­low for any ex­cep­tions, so with­hold­ing the doc­u­ments — which they say are crit­i­cal to eval­u­at­ing Iran’s po­ten­tial com­pli­ance — breaks the law.

The House voted along party lines Thurs­day to of­fi­cially de­clare the pres­i­dent in vi­o­la­tion of the law.

Asked if go­ing to court was on the ta­ble, Mr. Boehner said “that is an op­tion that is very pos­si­ble.” The com­ment came a day af­ter Mr. Boehner scored a le­gal vic­tory against the pres­i­dent when a judge ruled that the House has le­gal stand­ing to sue Mr. Obama over his im­ple­men­ta­tion of his sig­na­ture health care law.

On Fri­day the House will vote on two other mea­sures: One would di­rect the pres­i­dent not to lift sanc­tions un­til Jan­uary at the ear­li­est, and the other would of­fi­cially ap­prove the Iran deal — Repub­li­cans in­tend for that to fail.

Mr. Obama said Thurs­day that if Congress didn’t back him, he would have no op­tion to stop Iran’s pro­gram other than to strike at its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties.

“We can ei­ther pre­vent Iran from ob­tain­ing a nu­clear weapon through diplo­macy or be left with a form of war,” the pres­i­dent said in an­swer­ing ques­tions about the deal on Quora.com. “Those are the op­tions. As com­man­der in chief, I have not shied away from us­ing force when nec­es­sary, but I can­not in good con­science place the bur­den of war on our men and women in uni­form with­out test­ing a diplo­matic agree­ment that achieves a bet­ter re­sult.”

In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials say Iran is just a few months away from build­ing a nu­clear bomb. But all sides dis­agree on how long the deal Mr. Obama and other world lead­ers struck will de­lay that progress. Sup­port­ers said it halts Iran’s plans for a decade or more, while op­po­nents said Iran can’t be trusted to live up to its agree­ments.

The House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee said it ex­pected Iran to step up its sup­port for anti-Amer­i­can ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the world, which Repub­li­cans pre­dicted would get an in­fu­sion of cash from the bil­lions of dol­lars freed up by the deal.

Thurs­day’s Se­nate vote was a ma­jor vic­tory for Mr. Obama and his top lieu­tenants in Congress, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, who have cor­ralled enough sup­port­ers to en­sure Mr. Obama’s moves couldn’t be stopped.

“This is his­toric; this is grand; this is vi­sion­ary,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “This is about peace.”

But many Democrats, wor­ried about the deal’s un­pop­u­lar­ity back home, also sought to put some po­lit­i­cal dis­tance be­tween them­selves and Mr. Obama, propos­ing a num­ber of ex­tra steps Congress should take to get tougher on Iran.

Some have called for new se­cu­rity guar­an­tees for Is­rael, while oth­ers have said they want to cre­ate so-called “snap­back sanc­tions” that will au­to­mat­i­cally go into place should Iran be deemed in vi­o­la­tion of its obli­ga­tions un­der the deal.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, called those “born-again Iran bash­ing,” and doubted vot­ers back home will let Iran deal sup­port­ers off the hook. In­deed, Repub­li­can and al­lied cam­paign groups fired off a bar­rage of at­tacks against Democrats who sup­ported the deal Thurs­day.

Mr. McCon­nell said he wouldn’t give floor time to any of the get-tough pro­pos­als un­less Democrats prove they al­ready have sup­port of two-thirds of the Se­nate, or enough to over­come a pos­si­ble pres­i­den­tial veto.

Mr. McCon­nell also said since the deal Mr. Obama struck wasn’t a treaty, the next pres­i­dent won’t be bound by it — and he pre­dicted a Repub­li­can in the White House might reim­pose sanc­tions.

“For­eign pol­icy will be a big is­sue go­ing into 2016, and this agree­ment is a metaphor for all of the mis­takes this pres­i­dent has named. You name the area of the world, and you’ll see the re­sults,” he said.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, said this week he won’t en­ter­tain any more deals with the U.S. over his nu­clear pro­gram, that Amer­ica re­mains the “Great Satan,” and pre­dicted Is­rael won’t ex­ist in 25 years.

Ira­nian of­fi­cials also said Thurs­day they will not al­low their se­cret deals with the IAEA to be­come public.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Thurs­day’s Se­nate vote was a ma­jor vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Obama and his top lieu­tenants in Congress, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, who have cor­ralled enough sup­port­ers to en­sure Mr. Obama’s moves couldn’t be stopped.

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