When the international nuclear agreement came together, the possibility of Congress derailing the diplomatic solution and killing the policy was quite real.
But as of this afternoon, the breakthrough foreign policy will advance.
Senate Democrats delivered President Barack Obama a victory when they blocked a resolution of disapproval against the deal.The procedural vote, 58-42, fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance to a final vote and came after a lengthy floor debate – the culmination of acrimonious and often partisan back and forth following the agreement between the U.S., Iran and five world powers was struck.
The vote fell along predictable lines: all 42 Democratic supporters of the policy stuck together to derail the Republican effort. That was no small feat, and Democratic leaders like Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) deserve a lot of credit for the progressive accomplishment.
It was just three weeks ago that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) vowed with great confidence, “We’re going to kill this deal.”
No, actually you’re not.
I can appreciate the fact that the procedural steps can get a little complicated, but here’s the bottom line: Republican opponents of the international agreement assumed they would pass today’s bill, send it to President Obama, and have a knock-down-drag-out fight in Congress over how and whether to override the White House’s veto.
What GOP lawmakers didn’t realize is that they would fail rather spectacularly in persuading Democrats and building bipartisan support for their position. Republicans needed a minimum of 13 Senate Dems to kill the diplomatic agreement. Instead, they found four.
So, what happens now?
At a practical level, the legislative fight is effectively over. Opponents of the Iran deal needed both the House and Senate to pass the Corker-Cardin bill, and with the Senate defeating the proposal today, the bill is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Republicans may very well try again, bringing the bill back to the floor sometime over the next week, just in case a slew of Democrats quietly and dramatically change their minds, but the outcome is unlikely to change.
There’s still quite a bit of drama yet to unfold in the GOP-led House – which appears eager to sue the president over secret Iran-related information that doesn’t exist – but with the GOP-led Senate resistant to the House’s plans, the entire far-right gambit appears to be more of a spectacle than a plan to pursue governing legislation.
There will, in other words, be no presidential veto, because no bill to derail U.S. foreign policy will reach his desk.
The scope of the right’s failure in this debate is hard to overstate. Opponents genuinely believed they had the stronger hand; they would spend the August recess placing intense and effective pressure on key members; and allied groups would spend millions to shift the debate in the right’s favor.
But as the dust settles, conservatives actually did worse than either side expected a few months ago. The combination of poor strategic thinking among Republicans, who seemed eager to alienate potential allies, poor tactical moves by AIPAC and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and effective lobbying from the White House, Democratic leaders, leading administration officials, and U.S. allies around the globe made today’s victory possible.
It is a breakthrough day for American foreign policy, and a historic accomplishment for President Obama.