Virtually all of those who appeared undecided on
July 13 remained ambiguous on July 14. They
promise a careful review of the details.
An analysis of the press releases circulated by many congressional offices on July 14, the day the nuclear deal with Iran was announced, shows that those Members of Congress who were sympathetic to the deal before yesterday were likely to speak favorably about the agreement, those who had been critical of the recent negotiations likely attacked the agreement, and the undecided Members of Congress before July 14 remain noncommittal.
The vigorous critics of President Barack Obama and his negotiations with Iran eagerly denounced the deal.
The GOP candidates for President were very explicit. For example, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) argued: “President Obama has consistently negotiated from a position of weakness, giving concession after concession.”
Gov. Gov. Christie (R-N.J) agreed: “The deal threatens Israel, it threatens the United States, and it turns 70 years of nuclear policy on its head.”
The congressional Republican leadership joined in. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pledged today to do “everything we can to stop” a bad deal. And most Republican critics pre-deal remain detractors post-deal.
Similarly, Democratic supporters of the negotiations, including many of the 150 House members who signed a letter in May circulated by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), and David E. Price (D-NC), spoke favorably about the bargain.
But virtually all of those who appeared undecided on July 13 remained ambiguous on July 14. This group tended to say: I will carefully review the details of the agreement in the coming days and weeks.
Indeed, “review” is the watchword of the cautious crowd.
Take undecided Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.): “I will review the details of this agreement promptly.”
Or Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.): “Congress has an obligation to vigorously and judiciously review the deal announced today.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) promised: “a thorough and independent review.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) vowed to “review this agreement with the utmost attention to detail.”
Independent Senator Angus King (Maine) opined that “a responsible review of the deal by Congress is a critical part of that process.”
Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) suggested “a thorough review.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged that the terms be “carefully and closely reviewed by Congress.”
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) broke from the review herd to pledge to “carefully scrutinize the terms of this agreement.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also showed a bit of creativity by suggesting a need “to go through this agreement with a fine-tooth comb.”
His colleague from New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand intoned: “It is Congress’s duty to look long and hard at the details.”
There were a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.
Sen. Joe Manchin somewhat surprisingly did not mince words in a tweet: “It would be ‘a catastrophe’ for us to walk away from the deal.”
Other Senators gave intimations about their ultimate positions while remaining uncommitted. For example, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), commended the U.S. negotiators for “these historic negotiations” while carefully avoiding a position.
A number Senators did not issue statements.
Taking time to review the agreement is altogether appropriate for politicians before taking one of their most significant votes. After all, the agreement is some 109 pages, and only speed readers will have read and absorbed the agreement – and consulted with experts – before coming to a conclusion.
Not all Senators will open themselves to ridicule as did Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who had this dialogue on CNN yesterday:
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R): This is a historically bad deal. It will throw the region into further chaos. It’s taking a gasoline can and pouring it on a fire. The Mid East is raging, in terms of conflict now.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The only other thing that I would add is that we don’t know all the specifics to this plan.
GRAHAM: That’s true.
COSTELLO: You yourself haven’t read anything, right?
GRAHAM: That’s true. But here’s what I do know.
COSTELLO: So you don’t know.
GRAHAM: Here’s what I do know. They get money without changing their behavior.
Sometime in the next 60 days, Congress will vote on the deal in accordance with the Corker (R-Tenn.)-Cardin (D-Md.) legislation in April, and the ultimate question is whether there are 34 votes in the Senate and/or 146 in the House to uphold a presidential veto of a motion to disapprove the deal. In the meantime, the undecided Senators will come to decisions.
Ultimately, it is hard to believe that most Democrats will not come down on the side of their President and their likely 2016 nominee for President, whomever that might be. As CQ Roll Call wrote yesterday, “Republican lawmakers can do little to block or significantly alter the final nuclear agreement with Iran” And the best arguments: There is no good alternative to this deal and it blocks all pathways to a nuclear-armed Iran.
For additional information on the deal:
White House information on the deal