Here’s a reminder that for all the many justified complaints about Boehner and McConnell, the chief obstacle to conservative victory remains a highly disciplined Democratic caucus. Just like in 2010 when they passed the sh*t sandwich you and I know as ObamaCare, Pelosi and Reid were stuck here trying to corral support for an Obama initiative that polls dismally with the public. They got it done. Forty-two Democrats bit the bullet for O today, everyone but Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin, and Joe Manchin. The GOP has never had 60 seats in the Senate, so until Democratic unity cracks and/or Mitch McConnell figures out a way to win games of “chicken” with Obama involving shutdowns and debt ceilings, this is how it’s going to go.
Actually, there’s a third option: McConnell could have nuked the filibuster for votes related to agreements with foreign powers, just as his pal Harry did for votes on presidential nominees. Should he have done that here? He’d be setting a bold new precedent, sure to be cited by Schumer if Dems retake the Senate in 2016 and choose to further weaken the filibuster themselves, all for no better outcome than landing this resolution on Obama’s desk for a formal veto.
In a sign of how important the procedural vote was to the White House, Obama called Reid late Wednesday to ensure Democrats would stay together on the vote, a Democratic aide told CNN.
“The idea they would filibuster a process they voted for unanimously just a few short months ago is going to be a hard thing to sell,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican leader, who argued Democrats had voted earlier in the year to give Congress a say over the deal with Iran but now are blocking a final vote on it.
A top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, signaled ahead of the vote that if Republicans failed on the Iran filibuster vote Thursday, the party might use procedural tools to force a revote next week. The thinking is that they might be able to put additional political pressure on members like Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and other vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year.
The dirtiest Democrat of them all spiked the football afterward:
— Michael Wilner (@mawilner) September 10, 2015
Fifty-eight votes against the deal in the Senate (plus an overwhelming majority opposed in the House) and the spin from Reid — a man who so detested Republican filibusters that he eliminated them in certain circumstances — is that Congress spoke clearly in favor. RB Pundit asks a good question: If the deal is as great as Obama has repeatedly assured us it is, why wouldn’t Democrats want to vote to open floor debate on it? This is their big chance to sell Americans on the idea that giving Iran $100 billion and then letting them build an advanced enrichment program in 15 years is some sort of diplomatic master stroke.
Ted Cruz is proposing his own plan this afternoon. The idea is for the GOP to declare that Obama hasn’t submitted the entire Iran agreement to Congress as the Corker bill requires; then, because the Corker bill blocks Obama from lifting sanctions until Congress has received the entire agreement, the GOP would inform banks that any executive orders from O purporting to lift sanctions are illegal. Cruz, in other words, wants the banks to feel uncertainty about the law and to hold off on releasing money to Iran, regardless of whether Obama says it’s okay for them to do so, for fear that this will go to court, that Obama will be found in noncompliance with the Corker bill, and that any banks that have released money to Iran will be found guilty of violating U.S. sanctions. Think that’ll work? How long would a lawsuit over the Corker bill take? How much legal jeopardy would banks really be in if they’ve relied in good faith on an executive order claiming that sanctions can now be legally lifted?
Anyway, one footnote on all this. Here’s what’s gracing the New York Times website today as a helpful guideline to readers on why various Democrats are voting for or against the Iran deal. Let’s title this chart, “Spot the Jew”:
They did one for House members too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Times graphic that attempts to analyze a vote of Congress in terms of not only the ethnic make-up of a representative’s state or district but in terms of their own ethnicity. For instance, was there a similar “Hispanic?” table two years ago when the Senate passed the Gang of Eight immigration bill? Normally it’s treated as grievously offensive to assume that a lawmaker might vote a certain way on a bill out of ethnic solidarity rather than carefully considering the merits of the legislation (even though it surely happens regularly, in many contexts), for the simple reason that it suggests dual loyalties. How come the Times was okay with that logic on this vote but not on others?