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House Republicans Change Strategy On Iran Nuclear Deal


House Republicans are struggling against the constraints they imposed on themselves in the Iran deal. Lawmakers agreed to vote on the nuclear agreement in a way that makes it very hard to stop.


They're voting on whether to disapprove it, meaning if they fail, the deal stands. And for days now, it's been clear that President Obama's side had enough support in the Senate to ensure the deal survives.

MONTAGNE: Now lawmakers in the House are demanding to vote differently. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: It was almost as if the House got jealous of the Senate getting most of the attention on the Iran deal. Most of the vote counting has been focused on the upper chamber for weeks. And when it became clear that the president had enough senators to keep the deal alive, well, House Republicans, like Peter Roskam of Illinois, snapped into action to find a way to slow things down.

PETER ROSKAM: We should be scandalized by the approach of the administration to move forward on something as consequential as this and to be holding back information that they know is material.

CHANG: Roskam and other Republicans now argue that the president didn't submit to Congress information about so-called side deals Iran made with the International Atomic Energy Agency. And because Congress hasn't received all the relevant documents on the nuclear deal, they contend the clock hasn't even started ticking on the 60 days that Congress gets to review the agreement.

ROSKAM: The administration has two documents. They have not been disclosed to the House.

CHANG: So the House has a new strategy - vote on three new items instead of the bill to reject the Iran deal. First, a measure stating the White House did not disclose all the elements of the Iran agreement, second, a bill to stop the lifting of sanctions against Iran, and third, a resolution to approve the deal with Iran. Yep, you heard that right. Instead of voting on a measure to disapprove the deal, Republicans now want to vote on a measure approving it. Here's how Republican Pete Sessions of Texas explained the logic.

PETE SESSIONS: I mean, some people like their burrito inside out and others, the reverse.

CHANG: Or put another way...

SESSIONS: We want to make an upside down cake, which is what it was. Some people like the cake up the other way.

CHANG: Of course, for anything to get to the president's desk, both chambers have to pass it. So what do Senate Republicans think of the House's new plan?

BOB CORKER: I'm just not sure where you take that. Where do you take that?

CHANG: Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee says there's nothing the House can do to stop the Iran deal from going through.

CORKER: The clock ends on September the 17. The president's going to go ahead and begin lifting sanctions.

CHANG: And that inevitable result has taken the air out of the debate. In the Senate, the debate on the merits of the Iran deal has become background noise to a discussion about how Democrats should play their cards. Should they block a disapproval resolution from reaching final passage, or should they let it pass and sustain the president's veto later? Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut says they should block the measure.

CHRIS MURPHY: It damages our credibility in the nation if we have to go through this procedural charade of a veto. It's not apocalyptic. It's not fatal. But the president's hand is strengthened in the region and around the world if we don't have to drag this out for another few weeks.

CHANG: And Congress has no time to spare. After the Iran vote, it will have just days to figure out how to keep the government open past September 30. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.