The House rejected, 162-269, a resolution Friday to approve President Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, an unsurprising outcome that still in all likelihood will not prevent the administration from moving forward with implementation.
Every Republican except Rep. Thomas Massie (he voted present) voted against the measure. They were joined by 25 Democrats, most of whom had previously announced they would oppose.
Prior to the vote, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., came to the chamber floor to scold the 162 Democrats unwilling to reject the nuclear deal and go against their president.
What You Missed: Rules Committee Hearing on Iran Nuclear Deal
"This is probably the most important bill you will vote on in your term in Congress. Don't fall to political pressure because you don't need to: The ... majority of America stands opposed," McCarthy said.
"I listen to those who sit on committees and look to the chairman and ranking member [on Foreign Affairs]," McCarthy went on. "You know what I heard from both of them? The same position. They're opposed to this agreement."
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., whom McCarthy noted was likely "the next Democratic leader in the Senate," is also against the deal.
"This has brought us together," McCarthy said of Republicans and Democrats.
Few of these opposing Democrats came to the chamber floor to participate in the hours of debate, however, finding themselves in the awkward position of being at odds with the vast majority of their colleagues.
Lawmakers voting "no" on the approval resolution Friday were not of the typical group of moderates and "frontline" members who view their distance from leadership as a badge of pride. In this case, members who opposed the nuclear deal hailed from the senior ranks of the House Democratic Caucus and included members ordinarily loyal to leaders, notably Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel, Appropriations Ranking Member Nita M. Lowey and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel — all New Yorkers.
Those who did make appearances on the House floor kept things brief — and made it clear they were uninterested in being used by Republicans to score political points.
"We can disagree on the issues, we should debate the issues of any important policy such as this one ... but we cannot question the motives of any members of Congress, no matter where he or she stands on this issue," said Engel during his time to speak. "So instead of using this time to grind a political ax, let's instead look down the road. After, all we know that this deal is going forward, and when that happens, we need to ask ourselves how we can make this stronger."
Ultimately, the debate on the floor was treated as a party-line affair, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., eager to showcase primarily the veto-sustaining majority she had helped amass inside her caucus.
She was jubilant on Friday, holding a news conference shortly before the vote took place to enjoy an early victory lap. Officially designated earlier in the week by the Rules Committee as the point person for assigning Democratic floor time — an unusual occurrence — Pelosi proudly displayed a thick binder of statements each member had released upon support of the agreement.
The strong show of support for the president among House Democrats is impressive, however it's not yet clear whether it will matter for the purposes of allowing Obama to implement the deal.
The House and Senate were originally on track to vote on a resolution of disapproval, which the president would then veto, likely prompting another vote on Capitol Hill to override that veto, which Democrats in both chambers would have the numbers to sustain.
However, House Republican leaders caved this week to conservative members who wanted a different configuration of votes that would allow them to go on record not only opposing the nuclear deal but asserting Obama was not even within legal bounds to carry out the agreement.
According to legislation Obama signed into law earlier this year, Congress would have 60 days to review the nuclear deal from the time it, along with all other relevant documents, was finalized and submitted to lawmakers. House Republicans now say Obama never released the so-called "side deals" that make up the entirety of the agreement, meaning Congress really shouldn't be voting on any agreement at all. They voted on a resolution Thursday to this effect, setting the president up for scrutiny — even possible legal action — in the event he proceeds with implementing the deal.
Meanwhile, the Senate was unable to overcome a filibuster Thursday to vote on its pending resolution of disapproval.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is set to try again on Tuesday, and House Republicans have not disregarded the possibility they too will ultimately vote on a disapproval resolution should they receive it from their counterparts across the Capitol.
Following the disapproval vote on Friday, the House voted 246-186 on legislation to prevent the president from lifting any sanctions on Iran until Jan. 21, 2017 — or, the day after Obama leaves office. Two Democrats voted with Republicans.
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