Lurking beneath this exchange is a preview of how the argument over an Iran deal — presuming one is reached — will help define the 2016 presidential race. Here’s Obama’s response to Walker:
“There is long precedent for a whole host of international agreements in which there’s not a formal treaty ratified by Congress, by the Senate — in fact, the majority of agreements that we enter into around the world of that nature, including those in which we make sure that our men and women in uniform, when they’re overseas, aren’t subject to the criminal jurisdiction of those countries….“I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling to question the capacity of the executive branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries. If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies. And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”
Because of the question he was asked, Obama focused on the issue of whether he has the authority to temporarily suspend sanctions in this particular case without Senate approval. But Walker’s broadside didn’t question that authority. Rather, Walker said he would undo the deal on Day One on the merits — because a deal would supposedly lead to Iran getting nuclear weapons and put Israel in peril — even if our European allies continue to believe the deal is the best way to prevent that, and want to keep sanctions lifted.
Walker’s attack is a reminder that Republicans continue to frame their opposition to any Iran deal in narrow terms — I pledge to stick it to Obama and undo his capitulation to Iran on Day One!!! — when in fact the talks also involve major allies, meaning all sorts of consequences could result from blowing up an international deal to which they are parties. Obama’s response did hint at the general idea that recklessly undermining our agreements with other countries would “embolden our enemies.”
It’s in this contrast that the outlines of the 2016 argument can be discerned. In her statement indicating support for the emerging Iran framework, Hillary Clinton did say that the devil will be in the details of a final deal. But she unequivocally endorsed the idea that a negotiated diplomatic settlement between the U.S., Iran, and the “major world powers” is the best way to achieve the goal of blocking Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and strengthening the national security of both the U.S. and Israel.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration today will release a draft report detailing the potential impacts of climate change on Americans’ health, the latest move to build support for his actions to curb carbon emissions in advance of international global warming talks later this year.
If Obama gets his way, two of the most important pieces of his legacy — an Iran deal, and a global climate treaty — will involve comprehensive international settlements. Hillary Clinton will all but certainly support an eventual Iran deal, and she’s already pledged to protect all of Obama’s climate actions “at all cost.” Thus, she will be for international engagement as the solution to two of the most pressing problems the country faces: The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and climate change. Meanwhile, on Iran and climate, the eventual 2016 GOP presidential nominee will probably have pledged to undo whatever Obama has achieved — locking him on both fronts into a position of staunch opposition to international engagement.
* SCHUMER BACKS CORKER-MENENDEZ BILL: Chuck Schumer, the next Democratic Senate leader, has come out forcefully for the Corker-Menendez bill, which would suspend Obama’s authority to lift sanctions in pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, pending a Congressional vote. The White House fears a vote on this bill — which would come before any final deal is reached — could scuttle the deal. Schumer’s rationale:
“This is a very serious issue that deserves careful consideration, and I expect to have a classified briefing in the near future. I strongly believe Congress should have the right to disapprove any agreement and I support the Corker bill which would allow that to occur.”
But one legislative analyst has argued that Congress could hold a vote on the final deal whenever it wants to, with or without Corker-Menendez passing first, so a vote before a deal is not necessary to ensure that Congress ultimately votes on any finalized agreement, and indeed could give Iranian hard-liners a weapon against it. There are other concerns with Corker-Menendez, too.
* THE ARGUMENT FOR CORKER-MENENDEZ: I asked a Democratic aide for a response to the above argument. He responded:
“You’ll end up with a better final agreement if the Iranians know that Congress is in the position to serve as a backstop to a bad deal.”
The question is whether Schumer’s support will result in enough Dems supporting Corker-Menendez to get to a veto-roof majority.
* BOB CORKER AGAIN REJECTS ‘NON-BINDING’ VOTE: The New York Times reports that everyone is treating Senator Bob Corker as a deal-making type who will seek consensus in his quest to hold a vote on Corker-Menendez. Asked about the president’s openness to a vote that would only express Congress’ opinion of the deal, Corker said: “No, no, no. Having a nonbinding vote is, in essence, not of substance.”
As I noted yesterday, the real problem is that it’s unclear whether the basic difference here between Republicans (and some Dems) and the White House — over whether the president has the authority to temporarily suspend sanctions without Congress — can be reconciled.
* WHITE HOUSE COURTS CORKER: The Hill reports that White House officials remain optimistic that they can persuade Corker to make changes to his bill that they might be able to live with. Here’s why:
Corker, a centrist who is not up for reelection until 2018, was one of seven GOP senators who did not sign a controversial letter to Iran’s leaders warning that Congress could invalidate any nuclear agreement. He also agreed to delay a vote on the approval measure last month as negotiators worked to hammer out an outline of a deal…They’ve noted that he did not condemn the framework deal announced last week, unlike many of his Republican colleagues.
But it’s still unclear what a compromise on an Iran bill that both sides could accept would actually look like.
* OBAMA TO KEEP UP DRUMBEAT ON CLIMATE: Today the administration will release a draft report on the future impact of climate change on Americans’ health:
The administration says that the report, which is being put together by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is the sum of existing scientific literature on the matter. It covers, according to the White House, “weather and climate extremes, air quality, vector borne diseases, water- and food-related issues, mental health and well-being, and risks facing vulnerable segments of the population, such as children, the elderly, and people with existing health conditions.”…Mr. Obama is aiming to put a spotlight on ways that climate change will have real impacts on the body, like more asthma attacks, allergic reactions and injuries from extreme weather.
The administration has been searching for ways to recast the climate debate, focusing, for instance, on the potential economic benefits of a transition to alternative energy sources. This is the latest along these lines.
* VIRGINIA BACKS GOVERNMENT IN DEPORTATION DISPUTE: Mark Herring, the Dem attorney general of Virginia, has now joined with 14 other states in supporting the government’s position in the dispute with other states over the Constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportation. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is now weighing whether to lift a Texas judge’s injunction blocking Obama’s actions.
Virginia and the other states in its camp argue that the 5th Circuit should, at minimum, lift the injunction on them, because they say the executive actions are good for their economies and that the injunction harms their interests. Virginia is a state whose demographics are slowly nudging it into the Dem column.
* AND MILLIONS TREMBLE WITH EXCITEMENT AS RAND PAUL LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL RUN: Politico previews Rand Paul’s planned speech for today, in which he’ll try to allay widespread GOP doubts about his viability:
In the months leading up to the start of his presidential campaign, the younger Paul has distanced himself from a central plank of his father’s libertarian legacy: isolationism….The Kentucky senator also faces conservative unease with some of his stances on social policy. Paul breaks with the party mainstream on drug policy — he’s the only Republican presidential hopeful to officially support marijuana decriminalization — and on criminal justice reform and on voting rights issues.
As Harry Enten details, Paul is rapidly shedding his “isolationist” stances on Iran and ISIS. Should be interesting to see how long Paul maintains his unorthodox positions — and his status as The Most Interesting Man In Politics — on other issues.