Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Congress is great ... at ducking issues, rendering itself irrelevant

According to the Associated Press, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "grudgingly" conceded this week that he and his fellow Republicans probably lack the votes needed to block the nuclear deal with Iran.

"I hope we can defeat it, but the procedure is obviously stacked in the president's favor," McConnell "grudgingly" said. "We'll see."

Well, "grudgingly" my rear end.

The majority leader is right, of course. He's right that the deal will probably be approved, and he's right that the procedure is obviously stacked in the president's favor. As McConnell pointed out, under the law Obama "can win by getting one-third plus one of either house," and the president will almost certainly clear that low bar. As a result, the deal should be accepted and implemented.

But let's take a step back for a moment: Who put in place the congressional procedure that gives Obama such an obvious advantage? Who fixed the system so adroitly that Republicans in firm control of both the House and Senate are free to fulminate and fuss about the deal, playing to their base and depicting it as everything but an act of outright treachery, all while basically guaranteeing that the deal would be approved anyway?

Could it have been McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker, among others?

Yes, it could. McConnell sponsored the legislation that established this procedure, which passed in the Senate in May with just one vote (Barbara Boxer from California) cast in opposition. In the House, the law also passed overwhelmingly, with just 19 Republicans and six Democrats voting against it.

Convenient, no? Republicans and a few Democrats get the chance to vote against the bill, but without having to take responsibility for the chaotic aftermath if they actually succeeded in blocking it. And Obama lets them vent and posture, while knowing that the complaining is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Win win!

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.