Shutting Down the Government Over Iran

Deroy Murdock at the National Review proposes a government shutdown threat to defund the Iran deal.

As the curtain falls on Fiscal Year 2015, Congress should send Obama a new spending bill that gives him all the funding he wants, with one exception: no $150 billion bailout to Iran’s al-Qaeda-coddling ayatollahs….

[T]he entire GOP congressional leadership physically should travel to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with scores of journalists in tow, and hand deliver the enrolled bill to the West Gate of the White House. American news viewers will see this dramatic proof that Congress did its job and provided the funds to keep the government running. This evidence will remain on videotape for constant TV replay in the weeks ahead.

Inside the Oval Office, Obama will face a choice: If he signs a budget that excludes the $150 billion terrorist bailout, the wretched Iran-nuke deal mercifully will implode. If Obama vetoes that spending plan, he will shut down the government in defense of sending a cash bonanza to a pro-al-Qaeda regime.

To understand the dramatic flourishes that Murdock proposes, it is necessary to understand the history of government shutdowns as a tactic.  There have been seventeen of these in total.  At various times, when wielded by Democratic leaders, the tactic has succeeded in forcing change.  Jimmy Carter succeeded in using a shutdown to avoid funding a nuclear powered aircraft carrier he didn’t think the United States needed.  Tip O’Neill, the famous Democratic Speaker of the House, likewise succeeded in using a shutdown to kill the MX Missile program and the Pershing II missile for that year.  Funding for the MX missile was restored the next year, 1983.  While Congress remained in Democratic hands, the shutdown tactic was used 15 of the 17 times, without damage to the Democratic Party’s brand.

Nevertheless, the more recent Republican-led shutdown crises have led to relentlessly negative media coverage, both national and international, painting the Republican party as anti-government nihilists. The pain of this portrayal has pushed itself down to rank-and-file Republican voters, 71% of whom support a concurrent effort by Senator Ted Cruz to cut off funding for abortion group Planned Parenthood, but oppose shutting down the government over the issue by 56%.  In that opposition they closely mirror all voters, who strongly oppose another government shutdown.

Murdock’s plan is thus designed to create an elaborate and dramatic show of support for funding the government.  By creating a spectacle of delivering legislation designed to fund the government to the President, Murdock believes that the Republican party can avoid the blame for any resulting shutdown should the President veto the bill.

IranTruth has supported similar parliamentary measures in the past.  We strongly urged the Senate to reject the filibuster that was eventually used to prevent a vote that would force Senators to take responsibility for approving the Iran deal.  We likewise urged a move to pass a simple resolution that would recognize that the final deal presented to Congress was clearly a much broader agreement than the administration had been authorized to negotiate, and must therefore be handled according to the standards for treaty approval found in the Constitution. We supported a similar plan considering a concurrent resolution.

Instead, the Senate has operated relentlessly in the other direction.  They allowed the administration to blatantly violate the terms of the Corker-Cardin law by not providing the Congress with the details of the secret side deals as the law requires.  They did not move to consider the matter as the Constitution requires for a treaty.  They went so far as to permit a filibuster that would avoid anyone having to take responsibility for endorsing this disastrous agreement.  Congress’ leadership has been worse than absent.  Congress has led aggressively to enable the President with extra-constitutional authorities, while attempting to avoid responsibility for their own actions.

For Murdock’s plan to work, the Congress’ leadership would have to develop guts that have been entirely absent so far.  He has reason to hope that they might.  The American public is extremely doubtful about this deal.  Sixty percent of Americans say that it is either “extremely likely” or “very likely” that Iran will violate the deal (37% “extremely”).  If they bring the issue to a head with the President in the dramatic way Murdock suggests, Congress’ leaders might recapture some of its Constitutional authority from a radical executive branch.  What is doubtful, given their actions, is whether they want that authority back.