It’s no surprise that Speaker John A. Boehner isn’t happy with the Obama administration’s Iranian nuclear deal, but his level of discontent seems to be mounting.
While Boehner refrained from saying much of anything about the nuclear negotiations during his trip to Israel last week, the Ohio Republican is stepping up his criticism after President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that, under the framework, Iran would be about a year away from a nuclear bomb for the first 13 years of the agreement — and would be able to produce a weapon almost immediately after that. “President Obama himself today confirmed exactly what critics of the deal have argued: his ‘deal’ would pave the way for a nuclear-armed Iran in the near future,” Boehner said in a statement. “The Iranian regime has consistently taken a long-view on its regional — indeed global — ambitions of exporting its revolution. After multiple evasions of international inspections to date, no one should believe that the proposed inspections and verification are bullet-proof.”
Boehner went on to say that the “deal” — which he again put in quotes — was a “direct threat to peace and security of the region and the world.”
That’s sharper criticism than the speaker has offered previously, though it isn’t exactly a change in his position. Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress with the clear intention of giving Netanyahu a larger microphone from which to castigate the deal. (Under the still-evolving agreement, much of Iran’s nuclear program would remain intact, but facilities would be open for inspection and Iran would have to scale down its enrichment of uranium. In exchange for those concessions — and a number of other demands like reducing the number of centrifuges and preventing the production of plutonium — there’d be a loosening of sanctions against Iran.)
It remains unclear, however, what role Congress will — or even could — play in the deal. The Obama administration doesn’t appear willing to give Congress a vote on the framework, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways for Congress to weigh in.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has floated the idea of blocking Obama from negating U.S. sanctions on Iran until Congress considers the deal, and the matter could become an appropriations tug of war if Congress really wanted to insert itself into the process. There’s also always the warning famously issued by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and other GOP senators: That any deal not approved by Congress could be undone by the next president.
But Congress could also take a pass on trying to out-muscle Obama. It might just depend on how bad members think the deal really is — not just how bad they say it is. As of now, there are plenty of key players on the GOP side who have expressed their opposition to the evolving agreement. Whether their action catches up with their rhetoric is the real question.
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