As Republicans Introduce Bill Rejecting Iran Deal, Focus Is on Democrats

By Patrick Goodenough | August 5, 2015 | 5:11am EDT
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., right, and ranking member Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

( –  House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to disapprove the Iran nuclear agreement, amid an intensifying lobbying campaign as supporters and opponents of the deal seek support, especially from Democrats.

Three prominent House Democrats came out in opposition to the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on the same day as two Senate Democrats announced their support

Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act Congress has until mid-September to review and, should it choose to, vote on a “joint resolution of approval” or a “joint resolution of disapproval.” Royce’s bill provides the first legislative instrument.

Introducing his legislation, H.J.Res. 64, on Tuesday, Royce said he did not relish doing so, “but the consequences for global security from this agreement are too great.”

“This deal gives up too much, too fast, to a terrorist state – making the world less safe, less secure, and less stable,” he said.

It’s an uphill battle for JCPOA opponents: Rejecting the deal with the majority needed to override a promised presidential veto would require the support of at least 44 House Democrats and 13 in the Senate, along with that of every Republican.

Stepping up its lobbying, the administration launched a new website Tuesday providing the full text of the JCPOA.

“Lawmakers as well as the American people should judge this deal on its merits, and we are pleased to introduce another tool that will allow them to do so,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

President Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech at American University in Washington, D.C., Wednesday on the JCPOA.

“We are confident that a sizeable number of members of Congress will put politics aside and focus on what they believe is in the best interest of the United States and our national security,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told a briefing on Monday. “And if they do, a substantial number of those who follow that path will be supportive of the agreement.”

On Tuesday New York Democratic Reps. Steve Israel and Nita Lowey and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) signaled they will vote against the JCPOA.

The three are among 18 Jewish Democrats in the House, whose positions are being closely watched, given the Israeli government’s strong opposition to the agreement. (Obama met with U.S. Jewish leaders at the White House on Tuesday to urge support for the JCPOA.)

After review and consultation, Lowey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said she had decided to oppose the deal.

She cited among other things concerns about inspections, resolving so-called “past military dimension” (PMD) issues, and the lifting of arms and ballistic missile restrictions on Iran.

“In my judgment, sufficient safeguards are not in place to address the risks associated with the agreement,” Lowey said.

“After a decade in public life working to stop Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons, I cannot support a deal giving Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief – in return for letting it maintain an advanced nuclear program and the infrastructure of a threshold nuclear state, “Deutch wrote in an op-ed in the Broward County, Fla. daily Sun-Sentinel.

“I tried very hard to get to yes,” Israel told Newsday. “But at the end of the day, despite some positive elements in the deal, the totality compelled me to oppose it.”

Other Democrats who have made public their opposition to the JCPOA include Rep. Grace Meng (N.Y.) and Juan Vargas (Calif.).

Declared Democratic supporters of the JCPOA in the House include Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.); Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee; and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Senate struggle

During a series of committee hearings on Capitol Hill over recent weeks, a number of senior Democrats expressed deep misgivings about various aspects of the JCPOA, among them Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman; and, in the House, Rep. Eliot Engel on New York, Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member.

Those voicing support include the California Jewish Democrats who hold ranking positions on the Senate Intelligence and Environment and Public Works committees respectively, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Also supporting the JCPOA are Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.)

Closely anticipated among supporters and opponents of the JCPOA are the verdicts of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in line to be the next Senate Minority Leader; and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was troubled by the administration’s decision to seek U.N. Security Council endorsement for the JCPOA before Congress got to review it.

MRC Store