But while the drama just outside the Capitol building was amazing, the more meaningful drama unfolded inside the building.
As recently as 24 hours ago, the road ahead was simple and straightforward. After receiving the Iran deal in July, Congress had 60 days to vote on a resolution opposing the policy. Under the plan devised by Republican leaders, the GOP-led House would express its disapproval, followed by another vote in the GOP-led Senate. According to the head counts, the effort would fail; U.S. foreign policy would advance; and Republicans could move on to creating some other crisis.
As the Washington Post reported
overnight, that plan has now been scrapped.
[I]nside the Capitol, a member revolt forced [House Speaker John Boehner] to revise his plans to hold a vote against the Iran deal this week -- an unexpected showing of the internal GOP acrimony that has some fearing a government shutdown in three weeks. Republicans have been united against the Iran deal, and a disapproval resolution was expected to pass the House easily. But dissension emerged over tactics, turning the Iran agreement into the latest high-stakes issue to expose sharp divides inside the GOP.
If there's one thing that every Republican in Congress agreed on, it's their opposition to the diplomatic Iran deal. And yet, somehow, GOP lawmakers ended up disagreeing with one another anyway, creating a situation in which Congress may never register its disapproval of the Obama administration's policy.
Let's break down what's likely to happen now, because the scheme House Republicans came up with is a doozy.
The plan to vote against the Iran deal this week is, at least for now, dead. Far-right members of the House Freedom Caucus hatched a scheme
on Tuesday night, and about 12 hours later, they discovered that their gambit had actually worked -- Boehner and the GOP leadership no longer had enough Republican support to move forward with the Republican plan.
The new plan, as NBC's Frank Thorpe explained on the show last night, has three parts. Politico summarized
it this way:
One vote would rebuke Obama for not disclosing the totality of the agreement to Congress; a second would try to prevent him from lifting sanctions on Iran. Then, in a reversal, a third vote would be on a resolution of approval on the pact, designed to highlight majority opposition to the nuclear agreement.
Senate Republican leaders reportedly consider this three-pronged gambit ridiculous, and intend to move forward with their original plan, which they worked on for months.
And since the House and Senate will apparently pursue entirely different avenues, neither will advance.
Meanwhile, it's that second prong of the House GOP scheme that's worth watching closely. According to House Republicans, the 60-day review period technically hasn't even begun yet because that rascally White House has hid secret information about the Iran deal from lawmakers. Administration officials have tried to explain this secret information about hidden "side deals" doesn't exist, but GOP lawmakers have convinced themselves that these secrets are real and that the policy cannot move forward unless and until the information is disclosed.
If the White House waits for the 60-day review process to run its course -- the current deadline is Sept. 17 -- and then moves forward, House Republicans believe they'll have grounds to sue President Obama (again).
Why bother with all of this obvious nonsense? Because GOP lawmakers want to drag out this process as long as possible, confident that they can still defeat the policy if only they can uncover the nefarious secrets Obama is hiding.
Common sense suggests Republicans would want to get this fight over with as efficiently as possible, but at least for now, GOP lawmakers are instead content to fight among themselves over a policy they all agree on, while at the same time, never actually getting around to voting against the very policy they claim to hate.
Or, as the Washington Post
's Greg Sargent put it
yesterday, congressional Republicans are determined to "snatch defeat from the jaws of defeat."