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Jockeying on Iran Bill Moves On to House

Congress considers a bill that would grant it review over any Iran nuclear deal. President Barack Obama says, if it ties my hands, I’ll veto it.

(JTA) So Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), get together and they hammer out a bill everyone can live with — one that lets Congress review the Iran deal but doesn’t make a priori demands of the deal that Obama says will tie his hands.

Obama drops the veto threat, the bill sails through the Senate, 98-1, and next week it goes to the House.

Win-win, right? Back to the days of compromise, right? AIPAC thinks so, the White House thinks so, Cardin thinks so, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.), the Senate majority leader, thinks so.

But your friendly neighborhood pro-Israel community? Not so much.

Let’s go to Twitter. On one side, the Israel Project’s Omri Ceren and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz are calling it a humiliation for Obama. On the other, J Street’s Dylan Williams is doing the “Yo, Losers” dance.

Why are they still duking it out? And who’s right?

Well, the key in the above narrative is “next week it goes to the House.” Politico reports that the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group of about 30 members, wants to add amendments to the bill that could reintroduce the provisions that Obama has said are poison pills. McConnell shot down similar amendments. Politico says Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also seem to favor a clean bill, but are under intense pressure to allow some amendments.

Enter a letter from 151 Democrats who wrote Obama this week saying they are committed to the diplomatic process. I’ve been talking with folks on the Hill and they say this translates into, “We will block a veto proof majority.” Meaning, if amendments are added, and if Obama vetoes the bill, and if it goes back to the House, there will not be enough support for a veto override.

Really? Let’s do the political math, and also the actual math.

First, the actual math. There are 435 members of the House. Republicans would need 286 votes for an override. If all 151 signatories vote against a veto override, Republicans would have just 284 votes — two short.

Now the political math.

There will be intense pressure on Democrats from the mainstream pro-Israel community to back any bill that emerges. Peeling away two votes from the 151 might be doable.

But there is also small cluster of Republicans who would likely oppose a deal-killing override. I can think of at least three.

More significantly, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, signed the letter. Leaders rarely sign congressional letters, and doing so signifies close identification with a cause. Pelosi has been remarkably effective at retaining discipline in her 188-member caucus.

So win-win? If not, who loses? The answer is, we’ve yet to see.


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