The Iran sanction debate has an over-supply of disingenuousness. Consider:
There are 59 co-sponsors on the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill and 77 likely yes votes.
Foreign Affairs Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) took to the Senate floor to denounce the interim deal and urge a bipartisan approach to sanctions, which he warned will not be effective if we wait six months.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent out a letter commending Menendez, which the media characterized as AIPAC reversing itself on sanctions.
AIPAC made no attempt to clarify its position. But it is still sending out e-mails urging members to call senators to move the bill. [Update: Under fire, AIPAC has clarified its position.]
Meanwhile, 42 Republicans sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a letter demanding a vote on sanctions. (Sens. Rand Paul, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake did not sign the letter.)
So let’s be clear — the problem is not lack of bipartisanship. The problem is the White House, the Senate majority leader and the Senate Democrats who are carrying water for the administration. Reid and the Democrats quite simply won’t cross their president on a vital issue of national security because when the chips are down they will place — what does the president say? — party above country. Menendez’s speech in this regard was grossly hypocritical; he can bring sanctions to the floor any time and pass it overwhelmingly.
As for AIPAC, it has been almost entirely ineffective on the issue it supposedly cares most about. It failed to persuade Reid to move the bill, so now it defers to waiting on the bill. If it put U.S. security and protection of the state of Israel above the obsession with “bipartisanship” (there is none so long as Obama is president) it would not fete Menendez but tell him to move ahead. It also wouldn’t invite the administration and quivering Democrats to a warm welcome at its annual policy conference.
Meanwhile, the pro-Iran group NIAC has been very effective. It sent out an e-mail today boasting: “NIAC members from across the country visited 32 Senate offices to deliver petitions urging them to publicly oppose the bill. NIAC volunteers organized over a dozen phone banks to spread the word and encourage Iranian Americans to write and call their Senators. And of course, people like you helped us raise over a half million dollars in the last weeks of 2013 to expand our efforts to stop sanctions and support a diplomatic solution. . . . With this victory in our hand now, our movement is growing faster than ever before. Over 80 Members of Congress are organizing a letter supporting diplomacy and opposing measures that would undermine it.” The White House no doubt appreciates the help (from a group that opposes all sanctions).
And while we are talking hypocrisy, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has sent a letter to the White House and State Department warning it not to wave sanctions unilaterally. But he won’t now sign onto sanctions. Actual pro-Israel Zionists have, I suspect, reached their limit with him. (I guess he wants Congress to be involved in not passing sanctions and would be very upset if the president didn’t enforce sanctions. Got it?)
Whatever your view on sanctions and Iran, it’s long past time to hold a vote, which is the only way to really test whether lawmakers are with you or against you. If it fails, it fails, and pro-sanctions people at least know whom to blame. But that’s the rub isn’t it? So long as there isn’t a vote, there isn’t accountability. But there is, really. Anyone who signed onto the letter (42 Republicans) really means they want sanctions and the rest really don’t or they’d hold the vote and pass the bill. This isn’t complicated. It’s just remarkably dishonest, even for Washington.