The GOP fight could jeopardize Congress's ability to meet the Sept. 17 deadline to weigh in on the Iran deal
House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Iran was the issue he heard the most about during the summer recess
House Republican leaders are changing tactics on the Iran nuclear deal after blowback from conservatives.
GOP leaders are grappling with opposition from conservatives who earlier Wednesday delayed the start of debate on a resolution that would block the nuclear accord. Conservatives are calling on the White House to hand over more details about the nuclear agreement.
To get around the sudden obstacle, House leaders devised a plan intended to address conservative concerns by paving the way for a legal challenge over the implementation of the deal. The House will vote on a measure that says President Barack Obama violated the law by not turning over all the details of the historic agreement his administration reached with Iran.
The House would also vote on a resolution of approval on the nuclear deal – to put the House on record as having a majority that opposes it – and another measure that would prevent Obama from unilaterally lifting any sanctions on Iran passed by Congress.
But it’s the legal process that GOP leaders hope will bring conservatives on board and keep the House on track to finish voting on Iran by Friday.
Leadership believes it now has enough buy-in from rank-and-file members to start debate on Thursday and aim to finish voting by Friday.
A GOP aide said that this approach “lays the groundwork for a potential legal challenge and takes away legitimacy of President being able to say he used legal process to secure this deal.”
“I think that a lot of the dialogue we had today was talking up setting up a lawsuit,” Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon told reporters.
Salmon told reporters that the move to set out this new process comes as House Republicans recognize that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid likely has enough votes to prevent any debate on the GOP resolution to try to block the deal.
After presenting this new plan, House Speaker John Boehner received a couple of standing ovations from members, according to a Republican who attended the meeting.
“I don’t know anybody that said I won’t vote for this, ” Salmon said.
House leaders think a vote of approval will get around the obstacle imposed by conservatives who earlier Wednesday delayed the start of debate by calling for the administration to hand over more information on the deal before holding a vote.
They claimed that because the administration hadn’t turned over the arrangements for inspections of nuclear sites worked out between Iran and the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it hadn’t fulfilled the requirements of the Iran Review Act and the House shouldn’t move ahead with a vote.
Under that act, Congress has 60 days from the day it received the completed agreement to hold a vote, which could derail the pact. If Congress misses that deadline, the nuclear agreement automatically begins to be implemented.
That date has been seen as Sept. 17, but conservatives are arguing that that deadline doesn’t apply because the administration didn’t pass along all the details of the so-called side deals with the IAEA. The Iran Review Act also allows Obama to waive sanctions after that date, so long as Congress doesn’t vote to disapprove the deal, but since the House is now looking at operating outside that framework, GOP leaders want to make clear that they don’t think Obama would have the right to lift them.
But if Congress doesn’t meet the Sept. 17 deadline for a vote, whatever the Republican arguments, it could throw into question the ability of Congress to weigh in on the deal at all.
Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker argued Wednesday that delaying the vote as some House Republicans want is currently not the best strategy.
“As I understand the law … we have to act before Sept, 17, which is next week, or the deal does forward,” McConnell said.
They said that if Congress doesn’t act by Sept. 17, the sanctions will be lifted and the deal will be approved.
McConnell set things into motion Thursday on a Senate