“Elections have consequences,” an uncompromising Barack Obama told Republicans in 2009, adding, “I won.”
But as the president has learned, times have changed, with Republicans capturing the Senate and strengthening their House majority in the last election.
And so the White House announced last Tuesday that President Obama will not veto a bill giving Congress oversight of the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, despite months of threatening to do so.
It’s an important victory for constitutional government.
The reason for the White House change of heart is quite clear. As matters stand today, the president would not get the necessary support of 34 Senators to sustain a veto of the proposal.
That fact says a lot about the impact of the 2014 elections, when Republicans added control of the Senate to their continued dominance of the House of Representatives.
It also says a lot about the growing bipartisan concern about the deals being made by our go-it-alone president in his negotiations with Iran.
The bill co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., was unanimously approved last week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has strong Democratic support. But under former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., it probably would not have made it to the Senate floor. And if it had it would have been filibustered to death.
Sen. Reid’s departure as majority leader meant a new day in the Senate. That happened when Democrats lost nine Senate seats to Republican challengers, control of the Senate agenda and control of Senate committees.
Even so, it took careful negotiating by Sen. Corker, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to get backing from the 13 Democratic and independent senators needed to secure 67 veto-proof votes for his measure. He was undoubtedly helped by the remarks of Iran’s Supreme Leader casting doubt on the way the administration has described the emerging agreement.
Among the reasonable compromises worked out between Sens. Corker and Cardin: the period of congressional review of a final agreement was shortened from 60 to 30 days, and a proviso requiring the president to declare that Iran has ceased to sponsor terrorism was changed.
Yes, it would have been better to require that the Iran agreement be submitted as a treaty, requiring 67 votes to pass in the 100-seat Senate.
But support for that position did not materialize.
The Corker-Cardin bill, though a compromise, already represents a big step in the direction of giving Congress back an effective voice in national policy.