Updated 4:50 p.m. | Even though the White House has the support it needs to reject a measure that would disapprove of its nuclear agreement with Iran, opponents — led by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz — are headed to Capitol Hill to rally against it, anyway.
On Wednesday, a cast of more than 30 mostly tea party activists and lawmakers and pundits will take to a stage on the Capitol’s West Lawn to voice their opposition to the agreement, which opponents say would make it easier for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
“That agreement is a disaster for this country, for Israel, for the Middle East,” Trump said at a news conference last week, adding he thinks it will lead to Iranian nuclear proliferation.
The 1 p.m. event comes after a summer recess during which opponents of the Iran deal had hoped to build enough support to kill it. Instead, as of Tuesday, the Obama administration had received support from 41 senators, enough to block a vote and sustain a presidential veto.
Even though the agreement appears to be a done deal, Rick Tyler, a strategist for the Cruz campaign, said the point of the rally will be to demand Republican leaders at least take the issue up for a vote.
“The fact that they’ve announced enough votes means we should all the more rally, and get people on record to make sure we know who is fighting for the interests of the United States and who is with the Iranian regime,” Tyler said.
But Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant who led communications for the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2009 to 2013, said Wednesday’s rally will be less about foreign policy and more about “presidential politics and the red-meat conservative base.”
“The votes are what they are. The Democrats have the ability to help the president push this forward. I think this is all about earned media in the conservative press for Senator Cruz,” said Walsh, who is not affiliated with any presidential campaigns this cycle.
Since Trump announced that he would attend the event last month, its lineup has only grown. On Tuesday, Phil Robertson, the reality television star from “Duck Dynasty,” joined the list of speakers, and over the weekend former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin announced she would travel to Washington to participate in the event, too.
“I think the deal is so bad,” Palin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “GOP leadership is not doing a good job in fighting back hard enough on this one. We’re giving too much away.”
In the same interview, Palin said she would like to serve in Trump’s cabinet as Energy secretary — so she could abolish the department. Trump has said he would love to have Palin serve in his cabinet or in an advisory role.
Even before Palin announced she would join the event, it already had politics written all over it. All 17 of the Republican presidential candidates have been invited, but only Trump, Cruz and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore have signed on to the program, according to Tea Party Patriots, which is organizing the event.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has centered much of his presidential campaign on national security and his opposition to the Iran deal, will not attend the rally, a spokeswoman said. Instead, he spoke against it Tuesday at the National Press Club.
Trump’s participation in the event came at the invitation of Cruz, a Texas Republican who has hoped to get a piece of Trump’s spotlight. The two have formed an alliance as they hope to gain support from the same kind of Republicans angry with the political establishment. A Cruz aide said when he asked Trump to participate in the event, Trump responded that he would almost immediately.
Look forward to being in DC tomorrow—big crowd expected for our protest against the truly stupid nuclear deal we are making with Iran.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2015