Now that the White House has accepted the new Corker-Menendez framework outlining a process for Congress to exercise oversight over any Iran deal, what comes next?
In a piece entitled, “Iran bill unlikely to scuttle deal,” Politico reports this morning that the White House believes the outcome of the battle over the Corker bill is better for the prospects of an Iran deal than many think. As I’ve noted, I think the White House accepted the Corker framework largely because it had no choice, and would have preferred no Corker bill at all.
However, there is one point about the Corker framework that needs amplifying, because it suggests the possibility of a very interesting scenario that could get tied up in GOP presidential politics.
The Corker bill shortens the period during which President Obama is restricted from temporarily lifting sanctions as part of an Iran deal, pending a Congressional vote on the deal. Politico quotes Democrats arguing that this process is unlikely to block it. Here’s why: If Congress votes to disapprove of the deal, and Obama vetoes it, and Congress fails to override the veto, the deal moves forward: Inaction by Congress fails to restrict Obama’s authority to temporarily lift sanctions and implement the deal. That means that if only one house of Congress sticks with Obama on the veto, the deal moves forward. Given that most Dems are unlikely to join Republicans to disapprove of a final deal if there is one, that shouldn’t be hard for Obama to secure.
What this means is that the main threat to a deal from Corker is at the front end: It risks derailing a deal before it happens. That is a real threat. But if the deal does happen, under the new Corker framework, Congress probably won’t be able to stop it.
The crucial additional point, however, is that this Corker process is supposed to preclude Republicans from doing anything else to block the deal. It is meant to lock in a single process for determining Congress’ will towards an Iran deal. If Congress fails to stop it with that second vote under the Corker framework, that’s it: The deal moves forward for now, until a much-later Congressional vote to make the lifting of sanctions permanent. That is really significant.
But that may not be the end of the story. It assumes presidential candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and conservative Republicans in Congress, will be willing to play along. If a majority in both houses votes to disapprove the deal, and Obama vetoes it, allowing the deal to move forward, what’s to stop them from going on a rampage through the Conservative Entertainment Complex, denouncing Obama’s lawless defiance of Congressional will and demanding additional steps to block the deal, such as votes to defund its implementation? Nothing. So, yes, if there is a deal, Congress is unlikely to stop it. But the possibility of a lot more drama and noise — in defiance of the very (Corker) process Republicans themselves will have voted for — remains.
* OBAMA’S ECONOMIC NUMBERS RISE: A new Bloomberg poll finds that Obama’s approval on the economy is in positive territory, 49-46, its highest point since 2009, suggesting that economic optimism may be on the rise. If the economy does continue to improve, it could encourage the Hillary Clinton campaign’s current operating premise that swing voters don’t necessarily want a wholesale break from the Obama years.
Instead, Clinton will praise the economic progress we’ve made and promise a “new chapter” designed to help those who continue to be left behind, to varying degrees, by the recovery.
* BATTLE OVER MEDICAID EXPANSION INTENSIFIES IN FLORIDA: The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida lawmakers are heading for a special session because they are unable to resolve the impasse among state Republicans over whether to accept the Medicaid expansion, which would bring in $2 billion. The failure to expand Medicaid — it’s opposed by Governor Rick Scott, even though he wants other federal money to pay for health care for poor people — has put the state budget in peril, even putting tax cuts at risk.
The stakes are high: If Medicaid is expanded in Florida it could lead other states to follow. For an example of local press coverage pressuring Scott to accept federal money to cover his own constituents, see this editorial.
* BATTLE OVER CARBON RULES HEADS TO COURT: Coral Davenport has a nice curtain-raiser on the first arguments set to take place in court today over the future of Obama’s proposed rules to limit carbon emissions. A lot is at stake here, too: The survival and implementation of these rules are key to the prospects of securing a global climate deal later this year — which could in turn create a major point of contrast in the 2016 presidential race.
* McCONNELL VOWS MORE GOVERNMENT FUNDING FIGHTS: Mitch McConnell has suggested there will be a minimum of brinksmanship in the new Congress, but don’t get your hopes up:
“I think we’re going to have big arguments over the funding bills, frankly,” McConnell said in a USA TODAY interview Wednesday marking the first 100 days of the new GOP majority in Congress. McConnell said he expects Republicans will use the 12 annual spending bills to battle Democrats and rein in an administration that he says has been on “a rampage.”
And yet, in the very next breath, McConnell says we won’t default when the debt ceiling hike comes along, so that’s something.
* WILL ANY LEADING GOP CANDIDATE SUPPORT MINIMUM WAGE HIKE? Byron York has a good overview of where all the 2016 GOP hopefuls stand: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul all oppose a federal minimum wage hike; Scott Walker says he doesn’t think his state’s minimum “serves a purpose”; Rick Perry opposes any federal minimum at all.
Only Rick Santorum dares to argue for a modest annual hike. He even makes the heretical claim that it would serve as a “worker protection device” that would not “increase unemployment,” in contrast to Republicans who say they oppose a hike because it would kill jobs.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, HOMAGE-TO-SHRINE-OF-ELIZABETH-WARREN EDITION: Senator Warren makes Time’s list of 100 influential people, and Hillary Clinton writes her entry:
Elizabeth Warren never lets us forget that the work of taming Wall Street’s irresponsible risk taking and reforming our financial system is far from finished. And she never hesitates to hold powerful people’s feet to the fire: bankers, lobbyists, senior government officials and, yes, even presidential aspirants.
That’s a nice nod to the idea that Warren will influence the Dem primary even without running. But it remains to be seen how Clinton will navigate the differences among Dems over Warren’s chief issue, i.e., Wall Street oversight and accountability.