Want to know a secret? Congress isn’t going to stop the Iran nuclear deal, and not because of the merits, popularity or the fact that despite what everyone’s telling you, they can’t really stop it (more on that later). I can say with near certainty that the Iran deal is a done deal because that’s what an overwhelming majority of D.C. insiders are betting will happen.
People in politics rarely put their money where their mouth is. Any numbskull-and I’ve been one of them frequently-can go on cable news to argue against their ideological counterpart. The “he said, she said” format encourages a childish dichotomy, even when discussing over adult topics such as the Iran nuclear deal. Nuance is thrown over in favor of clear contrast as pundits turn gray area into black and white issues.
That’s the way the Iran deal is being portrayed: It’s Obama versus Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, and Congress has 60 days to reject the deal. Everything is riding on Congress’ say-so, according to, well, everyone, and this popular misconception has turned this whole thing into something of a legislative doomsday clock counting down to a parliamentary apocalypse. It’s this deal or war with Iran. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.
“If this deal is consummated, it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism,” said Ted Cruz.
Obama countered in a speech at American University, saying, “By killing this deal, Congress would not only clear Iran’s path to a bomb, but would accelerate it.”
If you read your tealeaves on television, the outcome is unclear. One poll by Pew shows opponents outnumbering supporters by 12 percent. Another by Washington Post/ABC News says a 56-percent majority of Americans support the deal. American Jews want Congress to support the deal, 53 percent to 35 percent, while 70 percent if Israelis oppose it.
But I’m sure this sucker is good to go because 89 percent of people on PredictIt say so. PredictIt is a website where you can make-for money-predictions about current events. The price of your prediction is some portion of a dollar that depends on how popular the prediction is. If you turn out to be right, you win a whole dollar. For the folks in D.C. who do this stuff for a living, this is like finding money in old pants.
On July 23, PredictIt posted the question “Will Congress override the Iran nuclear deal?” and the Yes propositions shot to 18 cents and have been falling ever since. Right now, you can bet-sorry, predict-that Congress will reject the Iran deal if you have as little as 11 cents. In other words, the Philadelphia Phillies, owners of the worst record in baseball, have better odds to win the World Series. The people who know how Washington works say there’s no way Congress rejects the Iran deal.
How can that be so with the polls in doubt and Congress under Republican control? It’s not complicated. To reject the deal, Congress would have to overcome a presidential veto, and 150 House members-more than needed to sustain a veto-have signed a letter supporting the Iran deal. This is a thriller with no suspense, and we already know the ending.
It’s also possible that the D.C. insiders putting their money on PredictIt know the dirty little secret about the Iran deal: If Congress passes a resolution disapproving the Iran deal, Obama can still sign it and ask the United Nations to lift international sanctions. All Congress controls is the sanctions put in place by the United States. The Iran deal isn’t a treaty requiring Senate approval, and Obama still retains the power to negotiate for the United States.
This deal is going to happen. There were show trials in the Soviet Union with more integrity than this process. Congress gets to act like it is fit to lead the country, and Obama gets to pretend he cares what Congress thinks. It’s not a perfect system, but now at least now you know the secret of how it works.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford