Senator Charles (“Chuck”) Schumer of New York faces a tough choice: back Obama’s Iran deal and anger many of his New York Jewish constituents, or oppose the deal and anger Obama and much of the Democratic Party leadership.
Prediction: Schumer will cave to Obama. Or he will take the weaselly option mentioned here, voting to override Obama’s veto of a Congressional bill to continue sanctions and block the Iran deal’s lifting of them, but being careful to not bring along enough people with him to make an override stick. Schumer, as the probable heir apparent to Reid’s position, seems to have quite a bit of influence over his fellow Democratic senators who are likewise hesitating, and therefore his vote is considered a sort of bellweather or linchpin.
Here’s a good discussion of the “is the Iran deal a treaty or not?” question, from back in March. Most people who condemned Corker-Menendez as a surrender of Congress’s power to approve treaties haven’t dealt with the reality that if Obama doesn’t regard it as a treaty there is little Congress could do to effectively challenge that position.
There is no currently no suit on the issue being discussed on Capitol Hill, and it’s far from clear that Republicans would be standing on firm legal ground with such a challenge. The debate, rumbling for decades, has yet to be definitively resolved in case law.
“It is a very interesting question,” said Nicholas Burns, a former senior U.S. diplomat, arguing that it is essentially up to the administration to decide whether it is negotiating an agreement that formally binds the United States to commitments under international law; i.e., a treaty, or a less stringent arrangement.
“interesting question” indeed. It seems obvious that whether an agreement is a treaty or not should not be left solely to the discretion of a president, because that would make the treaty power of the Senate a joke. A president would have carte blanche to make any sort of arrangement he/she wanted and just call it an agreement and not a treaty, and no one could fight that designation. What’s the point of Senate approval or disapproval if a president can, by this simple expedient, negotiate an unpopular treaty and then avoid the need to have the Senate vote on it merely by not having the Senate vote on it? Surely the Senate’s advise and consent power wasn’t meant to just be a rubber stamp?
And yet I am relatively certain that if Republicans tried to bring such a case, SCOTUS would either say they had no standing, or rule in Obama’s favor 5-4 with Kennedy as the deciding vote.
From that same article:
Biden argued Monday [back in March] that this practice is as old as the United States itself.
“Under presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without congressional approval,” he said in his statement opposing the GOP letter.
But were these so-called “major shifts” disapproved of by a majority of the Senate at the time they happened? No [and see the “NOTE” below about Nixon and China and the differences between that and Obama’s Iran deal]. Were they disapproved of in a bipartisan manner by every single member of the opposition party, plus a significant number of members of the president’s own party? No again. Any previous president who had thought to do anything like what Obama is doing in opposition to Congress would have feared losing his own party members, and even perhaps risked impeachment and conviction. Obama has tested his party and has no such fears.
So, besides Schumer (who actually may have made up his mind already and only be pretending to waver), how many Democrats are wavering over their vote on the deal? I don’t think there will be enough to override, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
Here is the sort of unicorn mentality we are dealing with in some of them:
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., called voting for the Iran nuclear deal “the most important decision we may ever make in our lifetime,” and tantamount to “averting nuclear war.”
“I grew up in the ’60s, and what got me into politics was ‘give peace a chance, avoid war,’” Farr told reporters. “For the first time in my life, instead of voting on whether we’re gonna invade Iraq or not invade Iraq, or invade this or invade that, or Bosnia, or whatever, for the first time in my life we have a chance to vote on something that will avoid war. And that’s so fundamental, so historical. I can’t see why anybody in their right mind wouldn’t support this.”
I think there’s a lot of blah blah blah among Democrats about how they have reservations about the deal, but that’s just to show they’re not Obama’s puppets and to imply that they are being really really contemplative. But in the end they will not oppose Obama or their leaders. Remember all the wavering on Obamacare before it was passed? In the end, a few people were allowed to vote against it to protect themselves if they came from red or purple areas, but the number of such allowances was limited in order to assure there would be just enough votes to pass Obamacare.
You can bet there will be a great many twisted or even broken arms among Democrats on Capital Hill before this is through.
As for Schumer himself, this Politico piece says he’s still undecided and may vote against Obama, while this from Michael Goodwin in the NY Post says that Schumer’s loyalty as a party man with lots of ambition will overshadow any lingering inclination to be an Israel hawk.
I’m with Goodwin. As I wrote earlier, however, the only way I believe that Schumer would vote against Obama is if he makes sure there are enough votes for Obama to carry the day.
[NOTE: Nixon’s trip to China is not a good analogy with Obama and Iran, although the left is very fond of making it. Among other things, Nixon’s well-known history of anti-Communism defused criticism to a large extent, but Obama has no such hardline history on Iran. Au contraire.
This rather obscure piece is the only article I’ve found online so far that deals in any detail with the amount of Congressional or popular opposition Nixon faced. Basically, any serious opposition was limited to William Loeb, who had been the editor of the very conservative Manchester Union Leader, and just a few others. Similarly, the MSM was almost universally approving and optimistic about his overtures, as was most of the public. Taiwan was understandably negative about the US rapprochement with China, but that seemed a minor problem on the US domestic scene.
But the huge differences between Nixon/China and Obama/Iran are hardly limited to the differences in US public opinion, although that’s important. There are large substantive and strategic differences as well. Also important was the fact that Nixon was not negotiating a nuclear arms deal, but rather beginning diplomatic relations and opening trade, a far less controversial process (although at this point we see that it has had major repercussions, some of them negative for the US). But China already was a nuclear power at the time of Nixon’s trip, and had been for several years.]
[NOTE II: You can see in the comments section in threads such as this that many Democrats would see a Schumer vote against Obama as choosing Israel’s interests over that of the US, the old “dual loyalty” accusation. Of course, in this case, we on the right see Israel’s and the US’s interests as the same, and Obama as opposed to both.]