APN Legislative Round-Up: September 11, 2015

 1. Bills & Resolutions



Shana Tova to all who are celebrating - stay tuned next week for a full version of the Round-Up!


1. Bills & Resolutions

Category 1: Resolutions of Disapproval of JCPOA, as provided for under the Corker bill

Coming back from the recess, these resolutions were expected to be the first item of business in both the House and Senate. But then things went awry. In the Senate, GOP leaders tried to ease passage of the resolution by lifting the requirement for at least a 60-vote majority (normally required to pass major legislation). As a result, Senate Democrats treated the cloture vote (which absolutely requires at least a 60-vote majority to pass) as the up-or-down vote on the measure, defeating it by a vote of 58-42. A second cloture vote has been scheduled for next week, in the hopes that over the next few days 2 or more Senators can be convinced to change their votes (and if not, Republicans can start a second round of crying foul over Democrats “preventing” an up-or-down vote – despite the fact that it is Republicans who are trying to change the rules of the game here).

And over in the House, speaker Boehner (R-OH) found himself blocked by a handful of hardline members (who have become known as the Tortilla Coast caucus – so named because it has been suggested that their plan to checkmate Boehner and offer an alternative course of action was sketched out on a napkin during drinks and dinner at the Tortilla Coast restaurant on Capitol Hill). Their proposed alternative course of action – consisting of three resolutions (covered in other categories, below) – was adopted 100% by Boehner. 

So in short, these resolutions of disapproval appear to be DOA.

H. J. Res. 61:  As discussed in previous Round-Ups, H. J. Res. 61, currently entitled the “Hire More Heroes Act of 2015” is Senate vehicle for the Congressional resolution to disapprove of the Iran deal.  On 9/10, Senate leadership sought cloture on debate over the JCPOA in order to bring H. J. Res. 61 to a vote. That cloture vote failed, with 42 votes against and only 58 in favor (required at least 60 votes to pass). A second cloture vote has been called for 9/15.

H. J. Res. 64 : Offered by HFAC chairman Royce (R-CA) and 11 cosponsors, “Disapproving of the agreement transmitted to Congress by the President on July 19, 2015, relating to the nuclear program of Iran.” Going nowhere. (H. Res. 408 is the resolution providing for consideration of H. J. Res. 64).

Category 2: Obama is Breaking the Law & Must be Stopped!

This legislation is one of the three pieces of legislation pushed by House GOP hardliners in place of a resolution of disapproval. It makes the case that President Obama has failed to live up to his legal obligation under the Corker bill to turn over to Congress all documents related to the JCPOA, including any “side deals” – and thus, the 60-day review period required under the Corker bill has not even started… and thus, implementation of the deal is illegal until the “side deals” are turned over to Congress and the 60-day review period has run its course. 

This argument turns on how one defines “side deals” under the Corker bill. Backers of this argument insist that under Corker, this requirement applies to bilateral agreements between Iraq and the IAEA – despite the fact that these agreements would appear to clearly NOT fall under the Corker bill, given that: (a) the agreements (like all IAEA bilateral agreements) are confidential, (b) the U.S. is not a party to them and has U.S. no role in them, and (c) the agreements are wholly independent of the JCPOA. Notably, those demanding these “side agreements” make no pretense whatsoever of actual caring about what the agreements contain – their goal is to kill the deal, and they believe that this issue of “side deals” is a technicality they can exploit to make this happen. With this tactic they are taking a page out of the playbook used in the battle over the Affordable Care Act – in effect laying the groundwork for a future lawsuit against the Obama Administration, alleging that President Obama broke the law in going forward with the Iran deal. 

H. Res. 411: Introduced 9/9 by Pompeo (R-KS) and Zeldin (R-NY), “Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.” On 9/10, passed by the House by a party-line vote of 243 - 186 ((Roll no. 492).

(H. Res. 412, providing for consideration of H. Res. 411, as well as the other two pieces of new GOP anti-deal legislation, passed on 9/10 by a similar party-line vote of 243 - 186 (Roll no. 491). Please note that in both of these votes, even Democrats who have come out against the JCPOA voted against the resolutions.)

 S. Res. 251: Introduced 9/10 by Sens. Johnson (R-WI), Toomey (R-PA), and Lee (R-UT), “ A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the congressional review provision of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 does not apply to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action announced on July 14, 2015, because the President failed to transmit the entire agreement as required by such Act, and that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would only preempt existing Iran sanctions laws as the supreme Law of the Land’ if ratified by the Senate as a treaty with the concurrence of two thirds of the Senators present pursuant to Article II, section 2, clause 2, of the Constitution or if Congress were to enact new implementing legislation that supersedes the mandatory statutory sanctions that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action announced on July 14, 2015, purports to supersede.” Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

 Category 3: Let’s Really Mess with Folks & Have a Resolution of APPROVAL

This is part 2 of the new House GOP strategy to take on the JCPOA.  Instead of voting on a resolution of disapproval, the Tortilla Coast caucus and friends thought it would be more fun to have the House vote on a resolution of APPROVAL – no doubt to ensure there is a good vote to use against Democrats in the future, and to send a message that there is little support for the JCPOA in the House.  Thus we get:

HR 3461: Introduced 9/9 by Boehner (R-OH), “To approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015, relating to the nuclear program of Iran.” Unsurprisingly, all GOP members voted against HR 3461. However, perhaps surprising some opponents of the JCPOA, 162 Democrats voted in favor of the measure – far more than had previously come out in support and far more than are require to sustain a presdientail veto.  Only 25 Democrats voted against the measure (roll call vote is here.)

Category 4: Wait! I Can Come Up With Even More Ways/b>
to Block Implementation of the JCPOA!

(NO SANCTIONS RELIEF BY OBAMA -- & I DON’T NEED TO GIVE YOU A REASON!) HR 3460: Introduced 9/9 by Roskam (R-IL), “To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran.”  This is part 3 of the new House GOP strategy to take on the JCPOA, seeking to bar any sanctions relief under the JCPOA until after the inauguration of the next president of the United States (you can fill in the rest…) As of this writing HR 3460 has not yet been voted on in the House.

(THE JCPOA IS A TREATY!!! WHY WON’T ANYONE LISTEN TO ME???) H. Res. 410: Introduced 9/8 by Gohmert (R-TX) and 6 GOP colleagues, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 does not apply to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran and submitted to Congress on July 19, 2015, because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a treaty and, pursuant to Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the Senate must give its advice and consent to ratification if the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is to be effective and binding upon the United States.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(NO SANCTIONS RELIEF UNTIL ALL TERROR ISSUES RESOLVED) HR 3457: Introduced 9/9 by Meehan (R-PA) and two cosponsors, “To prohibit the lifting of sanctions on Iran until the Government of Iran pays the judgments against it for acts of terrorism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 Category 5: Oppose the JCPOA, Support an Iran AUMF!
(Just don’t call us warmongers…)

H. J. Res. 65: Introduced 9/8 by Hastings (D-FL), one of the small number of House Democrats opposing the Iran deal, “To authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

H. J. Res. 66: Introduced 9/9 by Duncan (R-CA) and 4 cosponsors, “To authorize the use of the Armed Forces of the United States against Iran if the President determines and certifies to Congress that Iran is not able to demonstrate that it has not sought, developed, or acquired nuclear weapons in violation of its commitments or obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and for other purposes.” Yes, you read that right – war based on the presumption of guilt unless Iran can prove itself innocent.  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 Category 6: Not-Yet-Introduced-But-Floating-Around

The “Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015,” aka the new Cardin Iran bill. For extensive reporting on this measure, which includes a number of poison pill provisions, see LobeLog (best read in order: 9/3, 9/4, 9/5, 9/8). Latest reports from Hill sources indicate that this legislation is being amended to be less problematic for supporters of the JCPOA in the Senate and for the Obama Administration. The bill may nonetheless still be DOA if, as is being suggested by some sources, GOP leadership in the Senate simply refuses to let in move, preferring to deny Democrats an opportunity to make up points with Israel and AIPAC.

Other things to watch: the New York Times reported on 9/11 about other possible legislative action in the works:

Many lawmakers have indicated they would like to go further, and they are considering legislative proposals that include renewing the current sanctions against foreign companies that invest in Iran’s energy industry. Mr. Obama would waive them as long as Iran complied with the nuclear accord, but it would be a signal that Iran is not to be trusted and that sanctions could be restored rapidly. 

“Another proposal considered by lawmakers would seek to discourage Western companies from doing business with any Iranian firm in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has even a minority stake; that would be done by officially designating the group a foreign terrorist organization

“…Even as the accord moves forward, Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which opposes the nuclear accord, said that lawmakers would most likely push for a tougher stance, including some legislators who support the agreement but want to hedge their bets. One idea is to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization and thus discourage business with the hundreds of companies in which the Guards are believed to have a minority stake or over which they have influence through board membership or through their role as key executives. 

“'It is not enough to merely target the Quds Force, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, for its terrorist activities. The designations of the Guards would create a whole new dimension of reputational and legal risk,’ he said. ‘It would result in a powerful deterrent for international banks and companies contemplating doing business with the most dangerous element of the regime.’”