National Security

Go ‘nuclear’ to stop Obama’s Iran deal, urge 57 House Republicans in letter

Greg Nash

Dozens of House Republican lawmakers are making a late stab at pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to abandon the filibuster on legislation to block the nuclear deal with Iran.

A total of 57 House lawmakers signed on to a letter led by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) telling McConnell that blocking the deal was “simply so consequential” that it demanded a change to the Senate’s rules, known as invoking the “nuclear option.”

{mosads}“Our request to eliminate the filibuster for some votes simply underscores that in a democracy the majority should decide,” they wrote. “The super-majority now required to advance legislation is 60 votes, which is not serving our country well.”

The letter is part of a sentiment that has grown dramatically in the House in recent days as it became increasingly apparently that critics of the Iran accord would fall short of being able to send a resolution of disapproval to the president’s desk. As The Hill had previously reported, Smith began circulating the letter on Capitol Hill earlier this week. 

Senate Democrats successfully filibustered legislation killing the deal on three separate occasions this month, most recently on Thursday. Despite the support of some Democrats, opponents of the Iran pact could not muster the 60 votes needed to move forward with rejecting it.

McConnell has firmly rejected calls to change the Senate’s rules.

Republicans were outraged when Senate Democrats voted to prevent filibusters on most presidential nominees in 2013 and fear the political repercussions for changing their tune now. Additionally, they worry that the time may come when they would again be in the minority but without the power to stop legislation.

Plus, as the new letter makes clear, even with a rules change, President Obama would veto the Senate’s Iran bill, making the whole effort largely a symbolic one.

“We are under no illusion that the elimination of the Senate filibuster for some votes will guarantee the passage of legislation much less its enactment into law,” they wrote on Thursday. “However, a move by the Senate to a majority vote that can approve some legislation would make it much easier for Congress to advance meaningful solutions to challenges our country faces.”

In addition to Smith — who is the leader of the House Science Committee — the new letter is signed by prominent lawmakers such as Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

Despite the show of support, the letter comes amid the last gasp for Congress’s review of the Iran deal.

Lawmakers gave themselves just 60 days to review the terms of the agreement and vote either to preserve or kill it, and that window ends on Thursday.

Many Republicans have insisted that the review clock never started, because the White House never sent Capitol Hill a pair of side deals signed between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The House appears poised to sue the Obama administration over that point. 

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