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Morning Plum: Fight over Netanyahu and Iran could split Democrats

In his speech to Congress today, Benjamin Netanyahu will reiterate his argument that President Obama’s push for an international deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program is naive and dangerous for Israel. The Obama administration argues that a well-defined, enforceable deal is actually the best hope for preventing Iran from gaining nukes.

But the theatrics attending the conflict between the two leaders — standing ovations in Congress; Democrats skipping the speech; etc. — will eventually fade from the headlines. And the talks with Iran could ultimately lead to another conflict: A split among Democrats, with ramifications for the 2016 presidential race.

Consider: If the Obama administration and other world powers do reach a deal with Iran, Hillary Clinton — the all-but-certain Democratic nominee — will presumably have to take a clear position on it.

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg last August, Clinton said that Israel’s position in opposition to any Iranian enrichment capacity is “not an unrealistic position,” seemingly laying down a harder line than the Obama administration. However, Clinton had previously claimed some enrichment is acceptable under certain circumstances, and last month she came out against legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran, which the administration fears could scuttle the nuclear talks.

The bottom line is that a deal with Iran would likely exert pressure on her to firm up her position. While it seems likely Clinton would back any such deal, any hedging is likely to provoke anger on the left.

Indeed, in another piece of Iran-related news, two major progressive groups — MoveOn and CREDO Action — are vowing a campaign against any Democrats who undermine a nuclear deal with Iran. The heads of the two groups write:

If these talks fail because of unwarranted congressional meddling, Democrats who side with Republicans will be at fault. And progressive activists will hold them accountable for the rest of their careers in politics. The United States is facing a historic opportunity to make the region and the world more secure without resorting to war. We agree with our allies, negotiating partners and scores of national security experts: Congress should hold its fire and let diplomacy work.

Democratic base voters also appear to side with the administration on this matter. Wherever Clinton ends up coming out on such a deal, you could easily see some Congressional Democrats either supporting new sanctions legislation — which could undermine the deal’s prospects — or coming out against the deal itself, particularly if Netanyahu’s speech is portrayed in the media as a huge success. Which is to say that beyond today’s media spectacle loom the prospect of serious divisions among Democrats.


* 56 DEMOCRATS TO SKIP NETANYAHU SPEECH: The Hill’s whip list puts the number at nearly five dozen. Given previous Democratic skittishness about appearing out of sync with Israel, that’s actually surprisingly high.


Boehner is expected to move soon — as early as Wednesday — to bring up the clean [Senate] bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for a vote on the House floor, according to two House GOP sources familiar with leadership discussions…Boehner’s allies are expected to push rank-and-file members to vote for the clean DHS bill, making the argument that they support fighting back against President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but it’s time to move on from waging the battle on a critical spending bill that funds domestic security.

Really, nobody could have predicted this outcome. Just as during the last few showdowns, we were told Boehner couldn’t possibly avert this crisis by passing something with a lot of Democrats, because he’d lose his Speakership. That won’t happen this time, either. Boehner is helpless! Except, you know, he actually isn’t.

* REPUBLICANS HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE TO OBAMACARE! NO, REALLY! Just in time for Supreme Court oral arguments, Paul Ryan and two other House Republicans take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to outline their latest promise of an alternative to Obamacare, claiming that it will provide an “offramp” from the law, should the Court rule against it. This alternative would not include any of the ACA’s “mandates.” But:

We would allow parents to keep children on their plan until age 26. We would prohibit insurers from imposing lifetime limits on benefits. We would protect people with existing conditions…we would offer those in the affected states a tax credit to buy insurance. 

Sound familiar? Absent any numbers, it’s impossible to evaluate this “alternative” or its purported methods for accomplishing those goals. This seems like the latest transparent effort to create the impression that Republicans will have a contingency plan in place for the millions who might lose subsidies.

* STATES SAY ANTI-OBAMACARE LAWSUIT IS BOGUS: Don’t miss Brian Beutler’s piece reporting that the states themselves had no idea the ACA’s text threatened them with the loss of subsidies for failing to set up exchanges. If the Court side with the challengers, it would create a situation in which states are being retroactively hit with coercive conditions, raising Constitutional concerns:

That states were unaware of any conditions on ACA subsidies when they decided whether or not to participate complements the federalist argument that the architects of the challenge once made themselves. Not only is the threat coercive it’s also invisible….For Kennedy and John Roberts as well that’s a highly animating concern. It’s also one of many good reasons to uphold the subsidies.

Even one of the architects of this lawsuit says this federalism argument should be taken seriously by the courts. The question is whether the conservative Justices will adhere to their own previously stated principles on this matter.

* ANOTHER REASON THERE WON’T BE AN EASY ‘FIX’ TO ACA: Dylan Scott reports on another reason that some states probably won’t act to fix the problem if the Supreme Court guts subsidies to millions of their residents: They have passed Constitutional amendments forbidding any capitulation to the hated Obamacare:

Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming have passed anti-Obamacare amendments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And more than 1 million people in those five states would lose tax credits if the high court rules against the Obama administration later this year, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

With Congressional Republicans all but certain not to coalesce around any fix, this is another reminder that the consequences of an anti-ACA ruling cannot be minimized, despite the best efforts of some foes to create the impression that Republicans have some kind of contingency plan for those who would lose coverage.

* PUTTING A HUMAN FACE ON THE SUBSIDIES: The Huffington Post’s Jeffrey Young and Sam Stein talk to six people who stand to be directly impacted by a Court decision gutting subsidies. There will be a lot more like this in coming weeks, one imagines.

* AND COULD DEMS TAKE BACK SENATE IN 2016? Larry Sabato has a good piece gaming out the map, concluding that it’s “doable” for Democrats to take back the Upper Chamber next year:

In 2016, the Republicans seem to have their backs to the wall, defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10…Meanwhile, Republicans must defend seven incumbents that represent states carried by President Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Dems would have to win GOP-held seats in five Obama states to take back the Senate, presuming they hold the seats they are favored to keep. They’d only have to win GOP-held seats in four Obama states if they win the presidency, because the Vice President would be a tie-breaker. Still, as Sabato notes, this outcome is “far from a sure thing.”