House Republican leaders are delaying a vote on the Iran nuclear deal scheduled for Wednesday because of a rebellion from rank-and-file conservatives.
The House was to hold a procedural vote to begin 11 hours of debate on a resolution disapproving the deal at 1 p.m. Instead, they will gather at 4 p.m. to discuss strategy.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are demanding that the Obama administration send side deals between Iran and international nuclear inspectors to Congress as part of the Iran deal now under consideration. Opponents of the deal have argued that the clock on congressional consideration of the deal has not even begun until these side deals are submitted.
Under legislation approved earlier this year, Congress has 60 days to review the deal before the White House can begin lifting sanctions on Tehran, as required under the nuclear deal.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) has offered a resolution that would prevent a vote on the Iran deal until all of the documents of the international agreement — including the deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are provided to Congress for review.
“We had a very healthy conversation with our members this morning. There is some interest in the idea offered by Mr. [Mike] Pompeo, Mr. Roskam. We're going to continue to have those conversations,” Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerFormer House leader Bob Michel, a person and politician for the ages Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93 Keystone pipeline builder signs lobbyist MORE (R-Ohio) said after a GOP conference meeting.
In the Senate, there is skepticism from Republicans about the conservative plan.
“As I understand law, once Sept. 17 passes is it not the case that the president will take the view that he is free to go forward,” to lift sanctions, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, rejecting the proposal.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also dismissed the proposal.
Aides said they are looking at changing the “rule” — which governs debate on the House floor — so that a vote on Iran can still happen this week.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) predicted that the procedural vote on the rule would fail if it were held Wednesday. But neither he nor other members of the House Freedom Caucus who believe Congress lacks all the information it needs to vote on the deal would commit to voting against the rule on the floor.
“If we take a vote prematurely, then we’re saying it doesn’t matter. And again, that’s another form of approval. Why do we want to approve anything here when it’s a bad deal and we don’t even know the worst part of it?” Fleming said.
Fleming suggested that allowing lawmakers to review the side agreements between Iran and the IAEA could even flip some Democrats to oppose the deal.
“Let’s say that something comes out that’s so hideous and so egregious that even Democrats wouldn’t dare go along with this deal,” Fleming said. “You don’t know what you don’t know. We didn’t know that the NSA was doing bulk collection of emails until we found about it.”
But other Republicans say it's too late to try to stall the vote when Congress's 60-day review period will close on Sept. 17.
“You know what, I think it’s pretty clear that a month and a half ago we understood that Sept. 17 would be the drop-dead date. And the week we’re doing it is a little bit late to bring up the argument,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
Even if Roskam's resolution passed the House, it's unlikely to pass the Senate where 42 Democrats support the Iran deal and could block the measure from a vote. And resorting to a litigation could take months or even years to resolve — during which President Obama would be likely to lift sanctions within his control.
“I mean, this thing [the Iran deal] would be long in effect. I’m not sure that’s a real option,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio).
“I think a vote is important, but I understand why we want to have all the data,” Stivers added.
This story was updated at 2:50 p.m.