All that remains now is the vote. With Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s announcement last week that she will support the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama has enough committed votes to sustain his promised veto of congressional legislation to oppose his signature foreign policy initiative.
Now, the White House is counting heads of the remaining undecided senators — a group that got smaller by one Sept. 4, when Ben Cardin, the other Democrat of Maryland, came out against the deal — to determine whether there are 41 senators willing to join together to prevent a vote on the agreement.
While the filibuster is a time-honored Senate tradition, its use in order to avoid an up-or-down vote on the Iran deal would be a mistake.
It was just two short months ago that the Obama administration promised critics that the proposed Iran agreement would be fully vetted by Congress and negotiated with the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to provide a timetable for that analysis and vote. Any move to limit the agreed review or to prevent the promised vote would not only violate that very publicly agreed protocol, but would also raise serious questions about the good faith of the administration’s approach toward the whole review process.
Secretary of State John Kerry has argued that a congressional vote of disapproval (even if overridden by a presidential veto) would hurt America’s image abroad. Kerry argues that other nations would perceive a president who couldn’t keep his legislature in line as inherently weak, and that would impact American influence in other areas. But the nature and the extent of American opposition to the Iran deal is already well known. And the use of a procedural maneuver to avoid congressional review would do nothing to bolster the president’s image, while it would severely disappoint those who were promised a comprehensive review and an up-or-down vote.
Given the importance of the Iran issue, and the rancorous debate over it, any effort to prevent a vote threatens to remove a last chance for America’s political representatives to give voice to the public’s concerns.
The president and his supporters have won this battle. The Iran deal is going forward. We strongly encourage the “winners” to move through the agreed review and approval process with dignity, confidence and grace. Any effort to cut legislative corners or to invoke procedural maneuvers would reflect an insensitivity toward the intensity of the opposition and a reneging on the agreed protocol for the deal review. Were that to occur, we have less concern about how the administration would be perceived abroad and would be much more concerned about the credibility and trustworthiness of the administration.
The vote must go forward.