Poison pill: Rubio floats amendment to Corker's Iran bill requiring Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist

Is there any strategy behind this apart from generating a nice pro-Israel credential for Rubio’s resume that he can show off to GOP primary voters this summer? What I mean is, is there any chance that this somehow improves — or kills — the final deal between the U.S. and Iran or at least puts Obama and the Democrats in a verrrry tough spot in defending it?

Marco Rubio is refusing to back down from his fight to force Iran to recognize Israel, a stance that threatens to disrupt a delicately negotiated bipartisan bill that would allow Congress to review any nuclear deal with Tehran…

Some Republicans who want to see legislation passed are wary of Rubio’s move on Israel with Graham arguing the amendment could “unravel the coalition” backing the bill.

Graham said he’d vote against Rubio’s Israel amendment on the Senate floor if he felt that was the only way to keep the legislation on track to be signed by the president.

“I don’t think anybody is going to accuse Lindsey Graham of being anti-Israel,” Graham said. “I’ve been working for a year … to put this coalition together. And failure is not an option.”

Democrat Ben Cardin’s also worried that adding Rubio’s amendment to the Corker bill could destroy the bipartisan, near-supermajority support that the bill already enjoys:

Cardin said he doesn’t disagree with the language of Rubio’s amendment, but thinks the results would be “counterproductive” to Rubio’s goal. Speaking to a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon, Cardin said the amendment would do one of three things: cause the bill to fail, prevent the U.S. from negotiating any deal with Iran, or give Iran the upper hand during the negotiations. 

“All three are horrible results,” he said. “It’s counterproductive to the intent what the amendment is.”

If Rubio’s amendment ends up tacked onto Corker’s bill and the bill passes, the White House will be stuck having to choose between (a) demanding that Iran recognize Israel as a condition of the final nuclear deal, which Iran will never do, or (b) ignoring Congress’s demand about Israel, which will be seen as not only defying the will of the legislative branch but surrendering to Iran’s anti-Israel policy. (Although we’ve already arguably surrendered to that by negotiating with Iran in the first place.) Senate Democrats, of course, understand all that and will be loath to put Obama in such a tough spot, so they’ll simply have to block Rubio’s amendment themselves, either by voting it down so that it doesn’t end up attached to the final bill or by approving the amendment and then voting down the final bill with the amendment attached. That’s what Cardin means when he calls Rubio’s idea a poison pill: Senate Dems may well feel obliged to vote yes on the amendment, knowing that future GOP opponents will attack them as being anti-Israel in their next campaign if they vote no, but since they refuse to tie Obama’s hands by passing a bill with that provision attached, they’ll vote down the final Corker bill once Rubio’s amendment is attached. Result: No legislation emerges from Congress, Obama does his deal with Iran anyway as an “executive agreement,” and we’re back to where we started before this legislative process began. Nothing changes.

That could still be worth doing from a GOP perspective since Corker’s bill in its current form would do little to stop Obama from making a deal. Remember, under the terms Corker agreed to with the Democrats, it would take 67 votes in the Senate to block the deal, not 67 votes to approve it, as the Constitution requires under the Treaty Clause. All Obama needs is 34 Democrats to support his final deal with Iran and the Senate’s attempt to stop it will fail. Which means, whether Rubio’s amendment is attached or not, this crappy nuclear giveaway to the mullahs is almost certainly going to happen. You could argue that it’s better that there be no Senate bill at all under those circumstances; after all, why legitimize Obama’s deal with Iran by using some perverted Senate process to make it seem like Congress is “approving” the deal when there are only thirtysomething Democratic votes for it? I’d argue, though, that having 65 or 66 votes opposing the deal is politically useful even if it doesn’t have the effect of actually blocking O. A near-supermajority composed of Republicans and Democrats who think the deal’s a bad one is a nice talking point against it, but you may not see numbers like that if Rubio’s Israel amendment passes. In fact, I can almost guarantee it: Re-read the excerpt above and you’ll find that even Republican Lindsey Graham, who’ll be onstage with Rubio at the primary debates this summer, is willing to vote no on the amendment if he fears it’ll blow up the bipartisan coalition that’s formed around Corker’s bill. That’s powerful political cover for Democrats who would otherwise be worried about opposing a demand that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist. (“Even Republican superhawk Lindsey Graham opposed it!”) And if that’s not enough, AIPAC — yes, that AIPAC — also opposes any potential poison-pill amendments that might put Corker’s bill in jeopardy. How hard will it be for Senate Dems to defend a no vote on Rubio’s proposal when AIPAC is backing them up on it?

Long story short, either Rubio’s amendment is doomed and Democrats will actually pay little political price for dooming it or Rubio’s amendment will somehow squeak through, leading the Senate to kill Corker’s bill on the final vote and leaving Congress officially with no comment on Obama’s Iran deal. I don’t see what it achieves apart from a pro-Israel feather in the cap for Rubio’s presidential campaign. If you want to get worked up about an amendment, get worked up instead at the fact that Ron Johnson’s amendment to have the Iran deal treated as a treaty for constitutional purposes — which would require two-thirds approval, just as Article II demands — failed miserably two days ago, 39/54. It was destined to be filibustered by Democrats, of course, but a party-line filibuster should have produced a final cloture vote of 54/46. Fully 12 Republicans, led by Corker and including our old friends Orrin Hatch and John McCain, voted with the Democrats in the name of protecting Corker’s bill. Disgraceful. But if they’re willing to do that, they’re probably willing to dump Rubio’s amendment too.

Via the Free Beacon, here’s Rubio defending his proposal yesterday.