The House on Friday passed a set of bills intended to send a clear message to President Obama that the Republican-led body will continue to attack the Iran nuclear deal and warn against rolling back economic sanctions imposed on Tehran.
But at this point these efforts amount to a political protest because Republicans lack the votes to stop the White House from implementing the agreement.
The House on Friday passed a measure that would prevent Obama from removing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran by a vote of 247 to 186, with two Democrats supporting the effort. It is unclear if the Senate will take up the bill.
The House also voted against approving the Iran deal 162 to 269, with 25 Democrats joining Republicans in an effort to show the lack of support for the nuclear agreement in the House. One Republican — Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky — voted “present” on the approval resolution.
“Never in our history has something with so many consequences for our national security been rammed through with such little support,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said of the Iran deal during a floor speech.
The series of votes was a last-minute turnaround after the House had initially been scheduled this week to consider a disapproval resolution, under a procedure laid out in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gave Congress a role in reviewing the deal.
Under that law, Congress has until Sept. 17 to vote against the Iran deal, thus preventing the White House from moving forward with its implementation.
But it has been clear for more than a week that the deal’s critics would not succeed in using that approach because they would not be able to muster the two-thirds majority they needed in both chambers to override President Obama’s promised veto of a resolution of disapproval.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats made the veto issue moot by successfully filibustering a resolution to dismantle the Iran deal, ensuring that the disapproval resolution could never be sent to Obama’s desk.
Facing this reality, House Republicans this week ripped up plans to vote on that resolution and instead settled on a series of three votes, including the two measures considered on Friday, that they hope will keep the debate over the nuclear deal alive in the coming months.
On Thursday, the House passed by a vote of 245 to 186 a measure stating that Congress’s 60-day review clock to consider the deal never started, because the administration didn’t fulfill its obligations under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to provide lawmakers with copies of all the documents pertaining to the deal. Two side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency – confidential documents the administration says it doesn’t have – are outstanding.
While the House measures alone cannot block the White House from implementing the deal, Boehner also promised Thursday that the House would pursue other means of targeting the deal, including a potential lawsuit.
“This debate is far from over. In fact it is just beginning,” he warned. “We’ll use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow and delay this agreement from being fully implemented.”
Conservative House members seem to want the Senate to follow their lead in taking up the measures considered Thursday and Friday.
“I’d like to see the Senate actually go nuclear on this,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). “Take up our resolution and also turn down the deal.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn’t seem interested in too many extra rounds of this fight — though he is expected to bring up the same procedural vote on the disapproval resolution the Senate just struck down one more time on Tuesday, to see “if any folks want to change their minds,” he said on Thursday.
“If we want to do anything further about this Iranian regime, bring me a bill with enough cosponsors to override a presidential veto,” McConnell said. “Otherwise, the American people will give us their judgment about the appropriateness of this measure a year from November.”
Congressional Democrats are declaring victory – and insisting it is time to move on.
“Today we will not just be making history as the approval of this agreement goes forward, we will be making progress for the cause of peace in the world,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).