In keeping with the “ready, fire, aim” decision-making that we’ve seen far too often over the last few years, the House this week abruptly changed tactics at the last minute on Iran. First, the House was set to have a straight vote of disapproval of the Iran deal. That vote was sure to be a success. At the last minute, however, after hearing from concerned House members, the leadership agreed that the vote should be split into three pieces.
First, to understand why, it’s important to look at some of the legal background with the Iran deal. The so-called Corker legislation that set up the structure for the disapproval mechanism explicitly stated that a 60-day clock would start once the final deal was submitted to Congress for review. We know with absolute certainty that there are side deals attached to this agreement that have not been submitted to Congress. We’ve not been allowed to review side deals that allegedly address inspection protocols at key military installations in Iran. That sounds pretty substantive to me. Consequently, there is a strong legal argument to be made that since key parts of the deal have been withheld from public scrutiny, the 60-day clock has not actually started and implementation of the deal cannot move forward.
Voting to officially express that position in legislative form was one of the votes this week. The second was on approving (or disapproving) the deal. The third was to suspend the President’s authority to lift the sanctions until January of 2017.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, decided to filibuster the disapproval resolution in their own chamber, thus preventing debate or a final vote. Given the gravity of this situation, preventing debate or an up-or-down vote is pretty shameful in my opinion.
Regardless, there is now a substantive legal question as to whether the deal can, according to the letter of the law, actually move forward – irrespective of what the Senate has done. The President certainly thinks it can move forward. The House certainly thinks it cannot. I will keep you posted as to any developments on that front, which may very possibly involve taking the President to court again.
It is worth noting another important development this week along those same lines. The House of Representatives also took the President to court several months back on a couple of issues related to the implementation of Obamacare. This week, a federal judge conceded that the House did indeed have grounds to sue over the administrations decision to provide subsidy dollars that Congress did not appropriate money for. At issue is the very concept of the “power of the purse”. If the President can spend money that Congress has not appropriated, has one of the main pillars of our system of checks and balances been removed? I certainly believe it has. This case, which is extremely uncommon in historical terms, is a testament to just how far the Obama administration has been willing to go in trying to circumvent Congress and it’s encouraging to see the court join us in calling the President out for it.
The suit also demonstrates that our system of checks and balances can work if we use all of the tools the Constitution provides us. In any case, those were the major developments of the week. As usual, I’m interested to hear what you all think, so if you have a minute, please drop me a line.