Clever new Rubio amendment to Corker's Iran bill: The final deal must match this month's WH "fact sheet"

You remember the “fact sheet,” don’t you? That’s the document the White House released on April 2nd, the day it reached a “framework” deal with Iran, describing the terms that Iran had allegedly agreed to. Snap nuclear inspections of all suspicious sites, a greatly reduced number of centrifuges, delayed sanctions relief until Iran satisfied its denuclearization obligations — it wasn’t half bad, and certainly better than what an Obama skeptic might have expected. The only problem: Apparently no one told Iran that this is the deal they had agreed to. Within a week, Iran’s supreme leader claimed the U.S. “fact sheet” was full of lies; Iran’s defense minister claimed the deal didn’t include inspection of military sites; and, most dramatically, Iran’s president claimed that all sanctions would need to be lifted on day one after a final deal, not gradually as Iran complied with its duties under the deal. Either Iran had suddenly gotten cold feet after the “framework” deal was struck and reneged on what it had promised John Kerry or … the “fact sheet” was itself filled with distortions about what Iran had actually agreed to, a political ploy designed to build support in the U.S. for a deal that was still secretly very much in flux.

Doesn’t matter which is true, says Marco Rubio. The White House gave us the “fact sheet.” They told us that Iran had agreed to those terms. Those terms should therefore be absolutely essential provisions in any final deal. If the White House is uncomfortable with that, it can only be because either (a) they lied on the “fact sheet” or (b) they told the truth but are prepared to cave to whatever new demands Iran’s come up with to wriggle free of its previously agreed-to obligations. In other words, Rubio’s going to make Obama and/or Iran live up to their own BS.

Rubio’s amendment simply quotes that fact sheet verbatim and says the president may not waive or lift any Congressional sanctions until he certifies Iran has met the White House conditions.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why that would be controversial,” Rubio said Wednesday. “Yet somehow, I was told this would box the White House in.”…

Rubio’s fact-sheet amendment is different [from other GOP amendments]. It doesn’t challenge the presidential authority to sign an executive agreement. Republicans supported that power when their party controlled the White House. Rubio’s fact-sheet amendment is also germane to the Iran legislation before the Senate. An argument used against other amendments–like Rubio’s one on recognizing Israel–is that it asks Iran to meet conditions not related to the nuclear negotiations.

Rubio’s fact sheet amendment only asks Democrats to vote on whether a final Iran deal should meet the conditions as described by the leader of their own party. If Democrats vote that it should, then Obama may be forced to issue a veto over his own fact sheet as he seeks to make a final agreement more palatable to Iran. If the Democrats vote that it shouldn’t, then they will appear to be conceding the White House either misled the public or bungled the negotiations earlier this month.

It’s a clever tactic by a guy who, I think, has a knack for clever tactics. But … does it have a chance of ending up in the final Corker-written Senate bill on Iran? Obama can only be boxed in if Congress passes the bill with Rubio’s amendment attached, and the odds of that happening seem, shall we say, modest. The takeaway from my earlier post about his amendment on Israel is that there’s a strong bipartisan consensus in the Senate, backed by none other than AIPAC, that’s determined to protect Corker’s bill as written by defeating any amendments that might split the bipartisan coalition of senators that are currently lined up behind it. Rubio’s amendment could do that. If it ended up passing, Democrats would probably vote no on the final bill to prevent the “fact sheet” from tying Obama’s hands during the final negotiations with Iran, even though O himself claims Iran already agreed to everything in it. Without those Democratic votes, the bill would fail and Congress would be left with nothing. In theory that would supply the GOP with a nice talking point about the bill’s defeat — “Senate Dems were afraid to make Obama live up to his own rhetoric” — but in practice there are various RINOs who would likely give Democrats political cover by voting with them to kill Rubio’s amendment. For some Republicans, like Corker and Lindsey Graham, the most important thing is to pass some sort of bill that would grant Congress a vote on the final deal, even if it means sacrificing each and every amendment that might potentially inconvenience President Precious in his negotiations.

All of which is to say, how you feel about Rubio’s amendment depends mainly on how you feel about Corker’s bill. There’s no denying, as Ace says, that it’s a sham: Even if a bunch of Democrats join with the GOP now to pass it, guaranteeing a vote on the final deal with Iran this summer, it’s a cinch that at least 34 Senate Dems will vote yes when the time comes to approve that deal, ensuring that it’ll take effect. There’s no way they’ll stab Obama in the back on his greatest foreign policy “achievement” by helping the GOP to block it, which means all the talk of “bipartisanship” right now is, to borrow Ace’s phrase, “failure theater.” It’s bipartisan only as long as it doesn’t create headaches for Obama during negotiations; once it does, as Rubio’s amendment threatens to do, Democrats will go back to voting a (mostly) party line. The whole process is a kabuki designed to make it look like Republicans are doing something meaningful to stop the deal with Iran when in reality it’s entirely up to Reid’s Democrats whether it ends up being blocked or not. The only thing that hinges on whether the Senate passes Corker’s bill is the sort of spin available to the GOP later once the deal with Iran is implemented. If Corker’s bill passes now, setting up a vote later on the final Iran deal, and that final deal draws, say, 66 “no” votes, then Republicans can say a heavy bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate disapproved of it. If Corker’s bill doesn’t pass now, Congress will effectively remain silent on the deal, which at least has the virtue of them not engaging in a sham vote that perverts the Treaty Clause in the Constitution. Either way, the deal takes effect despite Rubio’s best laid plans. Which outcome is better?