True to form, Republicans have once again validated Murphy’s Law, which states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. And they did so this week in spectacular fashion, even for the Party of Stupid, as they are called by their detractors. Republicans had planned to tar President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal with the stamp of congressional disapproval even though the president had sufficient votes to uphold his anticipated veto. Republicans thought that they had orchestrated a surefire way to dope slap the president and his signature foreign policy achievement. But their plan backfired and it backfired badly.
The seeds of the Republican political defeat were sown last May when congress overwhelmingly passed the so-called Corker Bill, which was approved by 98 senators. Only one Republican, Tom Cotton, from Arkansas voted against it.
Senator Corker, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with a few Democratic leaders, devised a scheme that would present the resolution on the Iran deal as a negative statement, thereby making it highly unlikely that the senate could override a presidential veto. The wording of the bill was framed in such a way that a yes vote meant disapproval of the measure. By expressing the bill in this manner, Republicans in the majority-controlled Republican house and senate thought they could register their votes to disapprove the Iran deal. But they also knew that their disapproval would be overruled by a presidential veto, which would only require one-third of the house or senate to sustain it, pursuant the Corker Bill. Republicans agreed to this elliptical approach knowing full well that Democrats on their own could scare up enough votes to sustain a presidential veto. It was basically a done deal before the first vote was cast and every member of congress knew it.
Be that as it may, it was more important to the Republicans that the votes of all congressmen be cast and entered in the congressional record, even if that meant the expected veto by President Obama would be upheld. They figured that it would be good politics for them to be on record against the very unpopular Iran nuclear accord. At the same time, it would be bad politics for the Democrats to be on record supporting the deal. At least that was the political calculation behind the charade.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, one of the provisions included in the Corker Bill required only 41 votes in the senate instead of the usual 60 votes to filibuster the bill and prevent it from being voted upon by the senate at large. Apparently, Republicans didn’t think this would pose much of a problem because their party controlled 53 votes in the senate, all of which would be cast to disapprove the deal. The unpopularity of the Iran deal would make it highly unlikely that Democrats could muster 41 of the remaining 47 votes to deny cloture and sustain a filibuster. Or so they thought.
Instead, they were mortified last week when 43 Democratic senators, who decided to approve the Iran nuclear deal, voted to filibuster the bill and killed the bill in the senate, thereby upholding the Iran nuclear agreement. The successful filibuster by the Democrats prevented Republican senators from casting their votes of disapproval for the record. Republicans made the rookie mistake of underestimating the strength of partisan politics to overcome any perceived misgivings about our national security. All they could do was head to the microphones and complain bitterly how terrible the deal with Iran is, without mentioning the fact that they themselves paved the way for its approval, with mind-numbing naiveté.
It was in this manner that Republicans found a way to validate Murphy’s Law with monumental ineptitude. They managed to get rolled by the president and a Democratic minority in the senate, and they accomplished this dubious feat in the face of a recent poll by the Pew Research Center that found only 21% of Americans approve of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Republicans figuratively placed themselves in a circular firing squad and commenced shooting at themselves with abandon, while their political opponents stood off to the side laughing their tails off.
It would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that all of us got rolled as well. Iran, the greatest sponsor of terror on the planet, will now be able to access up to $150 billion dollars, currently frozen by the U.S. government, to do as they please. Approval of the deal will also allow Iran to play whack-a-mole with the inspectors of their nuclear facilities. This outcome should give joy to no one, particularly when the beneficiary, Iran, wants us all dead.