- - Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blame Congress, as well as President Obama, for the awful nuclear deal with Iran. Lawmakers chose to play political blame games instead of legitimately fighting to block Mr. Obama’s terrible agreement.

Fault belongs not only on the 34 senators who will uphold Mr. Obama’s veto if lawmakers pass a resolution of disapproval. Almost everyone in Congress bears responsibility.

Congress approved an elaborate charade back in May which makes the upcoming September vote on disapproving the deal totally meaningless. The vote’s sole value is to let politicians posture, wring their hands and tell constituents that at least they tried.


Congress almost unanimously voted for the deal long before members now might vote against it. They approved it in advance even though the terms were unknown at the time.

Not until July 14 did Mr. Obama announce even a sketchy version of those terms. But back in May, the Senate voted 98-1 and the House voted 400-25 for legislation that stated it “does not require a vote by Congress for the agreement to commence.”

There was plenty of grandstanding during the spring. Once the president had a deal, he would have to submit the proposal to Congress, which 30 days later could vote whether to approve, disapprove or do nothing. But what difference does it make? That legislation already stated that approval by Congress wasn’t necessary for the agreement to go into effect.

Lawmakers described things differently. Their May legislation would “give Congress a say” because the president would be required to formally submit the details to Congress, which then could take a vote. But so what? Congress always has power to vote on any presidential action if lawmakers wish. The White House recognized that the ploy was actually a surrender to Mr. Obama, wrapped in fancy language. He would submit details to Congress but it didn’t matter if lawmakers approved the plan or not.

That legislation reversed the normal and proper process. The U.S. Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to approve any treaty. That number was always out of Mr. Obama’s reach. In March, 47 Republican senators had written a letter to leaders in Tehran, advising them that any agreement with Mr. Obama alone does not bind the U.S. Unless either two-thirds of the Senate approved a deal, or a majority in both Senate and House did so, our next president could erase the deal “with the stroke of a pen.”

America’s reliably liberal media exploded. The letter-signers were condemned for “interfering” with the president rather than praised for injecting an important reminder about how our country works.

Yet the Constitution gives Congress great authority over foreign affairs, and that includes more than the power to declare war. The authority also includes the enormous authority (Article 1, Section 8) “to define and punish … offences against the law of nations.” Who decides what is right or wrong in international matters? Congress defines this. Yet few people pay attention to that clause in the Constitution.

Stung by criticism over their letter, most Republicans quietly backed off and looked for a face-saving political solution. Sad to say, that’s normal.

Historically, Congress is skittish about taking a stand on any international crisis. The preferred remedy is to speak loudly but drop the stick.

Lawmakers may berate a president’s foreign policy actions but they almost never block them. If you block the president, you get blamed if any bad things happen. Not blocking a president allows senators and congressmen to say “I told you so” if things turn out bad, yet claim a share of the credit if things turn out good.

One Republican who had not signed that letter, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, took on the task of creating a fix by drafting the legislation that ultimately passed in May. His proposal did nothing to solve the problems with Iran or with Mr. Obama’s cave-in to Iran. But the action might fix the lawmakers’ problem of how to look like they were standing up to the president, yet still allow Mr. Obama to do whatever he wanted.

Mr. Corker’s solution was that clause that any agreement would commence according to its own terms, with no approval necessary by Congress.

In fairness, Mr. Corker should not bear the blame alone. Only Sen. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who penned that 47-senator letter, voted against Mr. Corker’s plan. Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, missed the vote. But all other senators supported the measure, as did 400 House members. Only 19 Republican and six Democratic members of Congress voted against that legislation in May. Good for them.

Still, the greatest blame belongs to the White House. This political cowardice of Congress does not excuse Mr. Obama for surrendering to Iran. Nor does it excuse Secretary of State John Kerry for his pretense of negotiating.

Iran will continue threatening us and seeking to destroy Israel. Iran will laugh all the way to the bank as it deposits $140 billion that will help its support of terrorists. And as leaders in Tehran have publicly stated, the deal with Mr. Obama will not seriously block Iran’s access to a nuclear bomb.

Nor will the agreement make anything better in the U.S. America’s cynicism, distrust and disgust with all things in Washington will worsen. That is how we are building our own weapon of mass destruction.

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