The Corner

National Security & Defense

We Needed the Corker Bill to Lift Veil of Secrecy Over Iran Deal – Wrong

One of the main justifications offered by proponents of what the editors charitably describe as the “imperfect” Corker Bill was that, without it, President Obama would have kept the American people in the dark about his Iran deal.

The legislation, formally known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, was sponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R. Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham, a GOP presidential hopeful, among others. It came under intense conservative criticism before being enacted in early May because (as I’ve previously explained) it is structured in a way that virtually guarantees Obama will be authorized to implement the deal – evading the Constitution’s treaty provisions under which the deal, which empowers and enriches an enemy regime, would have had no chance of being approved. That, of course, is why the president signed the Corker Bill.

The claim that the legislation was necessary to ensure that the agreement became public has become a rote GOP talking point. For example, it was spouted in the first paragraph of the dissent an anonymous commentator posted in response to my weekend column on the Republican-controlled Congress’s weakness in confronting Obama’s Iran capitulations:

The bill forces Obama to pull his terrible agreement out from behind closed doors in Vienna and into the full view of the American public.

The dissenter was echoing Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), a co-sponsor of the Corker bill, who, while the legislation was being debated, told Glenn Beck:

It will at least allow us to get access to knowledge for the American people of what’s in the deal. The Obama administration has been trying to cut a deal with Tehran, where they and Tehran have rival talking points out in the world. And the people of the United States don’t even know what’s in it. The people of America have a right to know what’s in this deal. It’s going to be bad. But we need to know what’s in there. The way you get some transparency into it is by the Congress knowing.

As I’ve pointed out before, most recently in replying last evening to the dissent from my column, there was no merit to the claim that it was necessary to enact the Corker bill in order to ensure that Obama could not cut a secret deal with Iran. To begin with, the Corker bill does not deliver the transparency its sponsors suggest – it expressly anticipates and implicitly approves the classification of sections of the deal. More to the point, Congress has many constitutional powers at its disposal to pressure presidents into revealing the terms of international pacts – there was no need for lawmakers to compromise their powers over international agreements and international commerce, as they have done by enacting the Corker bill, in order to force the president to surrender a copy of a proposed deal with a foreign power.

But most obviously, as I stressed yesterday:

We know from our experience with the interim agreement [which led to today’s final agreement] that even though Obama tries to keep Iran negotiations under wraps, the public ends up learning about all significant agreement terms … from the Iranians. The mullahs cannot help themselves but crow over concession after concession won from Obama’s negotiators.

Voila! No sooner was the Iran deal announced today than did the Iranian regime post it online for all the world to see, in conjunction with the regime’s understandably triumphant commentary. We did not need the Corker bill to find out what is in the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” You can read it for yourself, courtesy of our enemy’s news service.

Even if you bought the nonsense about how we needed the Corker bill to get transparency, I would caution that you have now gotten whatever good there was to be had. Once Congress has access to the agreement, all the advantage shifts to Obama.

The Constitution requires (a) treaties to be approved by a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate, and (b) bills regulating international commerce (e.g., sanctions against Iran) to be enacted under regular legislative rules – meaning, passage by majorities in both chambers, with all the usual parliamentary hurdles, before presidential signature. But the Corker bill undermines these protections. Under its terms, Obama can lift the sanctions against Iran unless both houses of Congress reject the deal by the two-thirds majorities necessary to override a presidential veto that was certain even before Obama promised it this morning.

That means it would take 67 senators and 291 House members voting for a resolution of disapproval to kill the pact.

There are 54 Republicans in the Senate and 247 in the House. 

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