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Where Committee Leaders Land on Iran Deal

Corker and Cardin are two of the relevant committee leaders opposed to the Iran deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker made an interesting point on Sept. 4 : The two Democrats who have spent the most time studying the issues surrounding Iran are against the deal.  

The Tennessee Republican was applauding ranking member Benjamin L. Cardin's opposition to the Iran nuclear deal; the news of which broke at the end of last week. Corker also opposes the deal, like every other Senate Republican with the exception of Susan Collins of Maine, who hasn't announced a position yet. "The fact that the two Democrats who have spent the most time in understanding the details and impact of this deal do not support it speaks volumes," Corker said in a statement.  

Corker was talking about the Maryland Democrat and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, but he could have just as easily been speaking of House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot L. Engel of New York, who also opposes the deal.  

It's noteworthy that Engel, along with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California, opposes the deal, meaning every leader on the relevant committees with jurisdiction is against the proposed agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program.  

That's a lot of members — who would likely be considered the most knowledgeable about Iran in Congress — stacked up against the deal. If the Iran deal came through Congress, it would never get out of committee in either chamber no matter which party was in the majority.  

Equally noteworthy is that both Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose job it's been to sell the idea to congressional Democrats, and Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the deal, not only support it, but are also former chairmen of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  

The other former Senate Foreign Relations chairman in recent times, Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., supports the deal and even laid out a pretty detailed argument  for what could go wrong if the deal were to fall apart (although the deal is all but certain to advance at this point).  

"This is the best opportunity we have to delay, and potentially to stop, an Iran nuclear situation," Lugar told MSNBC in mid-August.  

And for what it's worth, Royce's two preceding chairmen on the House Foreign Affairs panel, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., are split along party lines.  

Ros-Lehtinen has been explicit in her opposition as part of a united congressional Republican front, but Berman supports the deal. While Berman signed onto a statement critical of the negotiations issued just before the final deal was released, he appeared Tuesday morning with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., supporting the deal.  

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