The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress fought President Barack Obama for the right to have a chance to reject the Iran nuclear deal.
Now conservatives in the House of Representatives are saying: never mind.
After spending a day tussling with House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday over how to take the vote, the members abandoned the idea of voting before a Sept. 17 deadline to disapprove the deal, as the Senate is attempting to do.
“There is a lot of support in disapproving” the Iran agreement, Florida Republican John Mica told reporters in Washington. “The question is how to position yourself right now and in the future.”
Instead, House members said they will consider a separate set of measures expressing their opposition, outside of the disapproval procedure set up by the law Congress passed in May for reviewing the deal. That means even though Republicans in Congress unanimously oppose the Iran agreement, they have no current plan to try to pass a unified measure aimed at scuttling it.
Obama already has the Iran deal in hand because Democrats have the votes to block Republican disapproval in the Senate. But the back-and-forth in the House exposes Republicans’ other problem, continuing splits within the party over how to take on Obama that often pit more confrontational members against leaders like Boehner.
The dissident House Republicans insist they aren’t bound by the Sept. 17 deadline to pass a resolution to scuttle the deal because Obama hasn’t provided details of side agreements between Iran and an international arms-inspection agency.
Those Republicans say they are preserving their right to fight a legal battle over the Iran agreement later.
Senate Republicans urged the House to stick with the initial plan to vote on a disapproval resolution before the time limit set by the bill Congress approved in May.
“As I understand it, the law says we have to act before Sept. 17 or the deal goes forward,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters.
“The president’s going to go ahead and begin lifting sanctions,” added Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Corker fought for enactment of the law allowing Congress to review the agreement that would curb the Islamic Republic’s ability to enrich uranium in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Obama initially opposed the measure, though he agreed to sign it after it became clear that the House and Senate supported it by veto-proof margins.
A House procedural vote set for Wednesday afternoon was delayed as Republican leaders sought an agreement to move forward.
“We had a very healthy conversation with our members this morning,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters after a closed-door party meeting early in the day.
After another meeting later, plans were announced for multiple votes on Thursday and Friday.
Mica said the House would consider three resolutions: one asserting that Obama didn’t submit enough information on the deal to Congress; one to approve the agreement; and one stating that sanctions against Iran shouldn’t be lifted.
Representative John Fleming of Louisiana told reporters that he and other Republican lawmakers think that a failed vote now to scuttle the deal would be the same as “tacit” approval.
Based on timing in the law that allows Congress to review the Iran deal, lawmakers have 60 days to review the deal after Obama submitted it to Congress. Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois and other Republicans contend the deadline isn’t valid because of the lack of information on side deals.
“That’s cute, but this thing has a deadline of Sept. 17,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
The dispute concerns agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which would inspect the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities under the accord. Obama administration officials said details of such agreements are kept confidential under standard procedures and that lawmakers were briefed on the substance of the accords.
The Vienna-based IAEA, an independent agency, concluded two agreements with Iran: one governing nuclear inspections and another governing a process to answer questions about possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear work, according to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington. He said confidentiality has been the international agency’s “practice for nearly 50 years.”
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