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Freedom Caucus to Leadership: Delay Iran Vote

Meadows and other HFC members are calling for an Iran vote delay. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Freedom Caucus members are poised to demand Wednesday that Republican leaders delay a vote on an Iran disapproval resolution until the White House has revealed all "side deals" with Iran.  

And if GOP leaders don't delay the Iran disapproval resolution, HFC members are discussing voting down the rule for the resolution on Wednesday. "I think the plan is just to say that there's a law on Corker-Cardin, it hasn't been followed, we can't ignore it, so to continue on with a vote in light of the administration not adhering to the law would be erroneous and really usurp the authority of Congress," Mark Meadows told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday night after an HFC meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast.  

An HFC member who spoke on the condition of anonymity later told CQ Roll Call that, while the Freedom Caucus did not come to an official position on voting down the rule for the Iran nuclear resolution, he believes HFC members would band together to do so if leadership does not heed member advice during Wednesday morning's weekly conference meeting.  

Overall, members reported the majority of the discussion Tuesday night during the HFC meeting was dedicated to Iran and whether it was appropriate to start debate Wednesday and hold a vote Friday, which is Sept. 11. (A number of members have taken issue with the House voting on the Iran resolution on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; on Tuesday night, Arizona Republican Paul Gosar's reaction to the schedule was, "You gotta be kidding me!")  

But the larger issue for members with the Friday vote seems to be the report of "side deals " between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., offered a privileged motion Tuesday for a vote on a resolution that states the House should not act on the Iran nuclear legislation until it receives all "side deals."  

Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president is obligated to send Congress "all related materials and annexes," and until the president does that, the 60-day clock for a vote on Iran does not start.  

"Some would argue if it's just what's in possession of the administration, then [the president] doesn't have to turn it over because he supposedly doesn't have that, because it's out of his hands supposedly," Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., told CQ Roll Call, clarifying that he would have to go back and look at the text of the Corker-Cardin bill before coming down on one side or the other.  

But it seems most members of the Freedom Caucus have made up their minds and want leadership to delay a vote on the disapproval resolution, which seems like the cleanest way to prevent a vote. Politico reported  Tuesday that leadership was trying to figure out if adopting the Roskam resolution Thursday would actually prevent a vote on the disapproval resolution on Friday. Voting down the rule for the disapproval resolution certainly would have stopping power.  

But even if conservatives band together to vote against the procedural legislation that simply brings the disapproval resolution to the floor, Democrats could bail out House leaders by voting for the rule, as they did on the rule for Trade Promotion Authority earlier this year. Or Democrats could simply do nothing and let the administration assert that they've complied with the Corker language.  

The deadline for Congress to initially approve or disapprove of the Iran deal is Sept. 17, and if Congress does nothing, the administration will most likely argue the agreement can take effect. From one GOP perspective, since the Iran deal is almost certain to go through anyway, Republicans might as well maintain the ability to argue that the president has not complied with the review act, and therefore, the deal is invalid.  

The whole situation might end up as an ongoing PR battle that requires a judge to sort out.  

But if you thought GOP leaders might embrace this, you could be wrong.  

A senior GOP aide told CQ Roll Call late Tuesday night that, "On the same day that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz hold a Capitol Hill rally urging Congress to reject this deal, it will be pretty hard to argue that we should let Democrats off the hook and not take a stand at all."  

Meanwhile, with the the majority of Democrats supporting the Iran deal — and therefore opposing the disapproval resolution — there is momentum to affirm the agreement. Senate Democrats now appear to have enough votes to filibuster the disapproval resolution, a move that would save President Barack Obama the trouble of having to veto the legislation.  

Delaying a vote now could simply subject Democrats to a prolonged campaign later to change their position on the Iran deal, or perhaps worse, a long-term GOP campaign that the deal should be nullified. If House Republican leaders want to move forward with a vote on the disapproval resolution, Democratic leaders may be inclined to let them.

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