Wall Street Journal
May 1, 2015
In the matter of the Corker-Cardin bill giving
Congress a voice in the Iranian nuclear deal, allow us to adapt Churchill’s
dictum on democracy: It’s the worst form of legislation, except for all the
others that have been proposed.
We write this as the bill—named for Senate
Foreign Relations Chairman Bob
Corker (R., Tenn.) and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (Maryland)—is being
assailed by some of our conservative friends as a damp squib that won’t stop
President Obama from striking a bad deal with Tehran while giving the agreement
an implicit seal of Congressional approval. Senators Marco
Rubio and Ted Cruz
have proposed amendments that, while defensible on their merits, would give
Democrats the political excuse many of them seek to vote against the bill.
In a better world—one in which Mr. Obama
were not President—we’d be inclined to agree with the critics. A nuclear
deal with Tehran is the most significant international agreement of the past
decade and should be handled as a treaty, requiring two-thirds support from the
Senate. By contrast under Corker-Cardin Democrats need only 41 votes to
filibuster a resolution of disapproval of a deal, and only 34 to sustain a
near-certain presidential veto.
In other words, the legislation effectively
inverts the Founders’ intentions by allowing the President to get his way with
one-third of the Senate on his side. There is also no good reason why Mr.
Cruz’s amendment, which would require an Iran deal to get a simple majority
from the Senate and House to go into effect, or Mr. Rubio’s demanding that
Iran accept Israel’s right to exist, should be deal-breakers for Democrats.
But then we step back to reality. Critics of
Corker-Cardin insist the bill is a gift to the Administration, but you
wouldn’t know it given how hard the President and Secretary of State John
Kerry lobbied against the bill before it was voted out of committee on a
19-0 bipartisan vote.
What the Administration most fears is that the
bill will require Mr. Obama to submit a nuclear deal, in all of its detail, to a
public debate, in which supporters may have to explain its various giveaways.
Why, for instance, should Iran get tens of billions of dollars in immediate
sanctions relief, which (money being fungible) will immediately be put to use
funding missiles for Hezbollah, rockets for Hamas, and barrel bombs for Bashar
Similar questions will be raised about
“snap-back” sanctions that probably won’t snap back without permission
from Moscow and Beijing, or an inspections process that allows the Iranians to
play the cat-and-mouse games they’ve used for years to deceive U.N. nuclear
inspectors. Democrats will also have to reckon with Mr. Obama’s admission
that, when the deal expires in 10 or 15 years, Iran’s “nuclear breakout”
will be shortened to weeks—far too short to detect, much less prevent by
sanctions or military means.
That debate will be an education that will
inform voters going into the next election. It will also make a filibuster
uncomfortable for Senate Democrats, most of whom have political careers to think
about after Mr. Obama leaves office. This may not defeat an Iran deal, but that
was always unlikely once Mr. Obama chose to submit it as an executive agreement
and go to the United Nations first.
The Corker bill nonetheless does offer the
potential of putting a bipartisan majority’s stamp of disapproval on Mr.
Obama’s dangerous diplomacy. That’s more than Republicans could hope for if
they give Democrats the easy political out of stuffing the bill with amendments
that can be dismissed as diplomatic nonstarters, unjustified interventions in
presidential power, or any other excuse to support a filibuster.
Corker-Cardin also contains a proviso
requiring the President to certify every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with
a deal. The Administration has already shown itself willing to overlook
Tehran’s violations of its nuclear commitments, and it would probably take a
nuclear test in the Iranian desert for Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry to acknowledge
But the certification requirement does give
Mr. Obama’s successor an opportunity to walk away from the deal should Iran
cheat, much as George
W. Bush did in 2002 after North Korea admitted to violating Bill Clinton’s
Agreed Framework on its nuclear programs. Mr. Bush and Condoleezza
Rice got suckered into renewed rounds of diplomacy with Pyongyang, but
perhaps the next President might learn something from history.
We have long been skeptical of Mr. Obama’s
Iran project, and the deal so far looks like a strategic blunder that will
unleash a new age of nuclear proliferation. Until the U.S. elects a President
who is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear bid, Corker-Cardin is the best
bet for censuring Mr. Obama’s misbegotten diplomacy, and giving his successor
a fighting chance to reverse it.