POLITICS

Bobby Jindal: Capitol Hill Republicans Bungled The Iran Deal Vote

The presidential contender says GOP lawmakers got "conned."

DENISON, Iowa -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) says Capitol Hill Republicans got badly outplayed in their efforts to sink President Barack Obama's pending nuclear deal with Iran.

Jindal's argument, laid out in an interview with The Huffington Post on Wednesday, focused on a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress in May that was meant to curb the president’s authority to waive sanctions under a potential nuclear agreement. The bill gave lawmakers a review period to consider any deal that was reached, after which Congress had the option to decide to vote on a resolution of approval or disapproval, or to do nothing.

The Louisiana governor argued that congressional Republicans ensured the deal's passage by setting up a vote of disapproval, which was unlikely to get the two-thirds majority necessary to override an inevitable presidential veto. Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that interferes with his ability to carry out the agreement. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) delivered the death knell to opponents of the deal on Wednesday when she became the 34th senator to back the deal, giving Democrats enough votes to sustain a presidential veto.

“I think that the president got conned by the Iranians -- he then conned the Senate Republicans and turned it on its head so it only takes 34 votes to save this bad deal,” Jindal told HuffPost after a town hall in Denison, Iowa.

“My fundamental critique is that the Senate Republicans made a mistake," he added. "They approved this bill."

The Louisiana governor and presidential candidate, who ranks near the bottom in current national polls of the 2016 race, used the Iran issue as a way to attack against his rivals in Washington while simultaneously playing up his status as an outsider. But the validity of his critique is questionable at best. Under Jindal's logic, Republican leaders should have brought a bill to the Senate floor that required 67 votes for final passage of the Iran deal -- which would have meant deal opponents only needed 34 votes to kill the agreement, putting the onus on supporters to gin up the necessary support.

But had Republican leadership pushed such a measure, Democrats would surely have objected, and Obama would definitely have vetoed it. In the end, Congress likely would not have gotten any say in the process at all.

Jindal didn't acknowledge the necessity of the trade-off. He just made the case that Republicans should have tried, well, harder.

“I think they gotta go home and say they passed a bill, they've got to go home and take political credit. But it really isn't stopping a bad deal. This was predictable when they voted on the bill. They should have stood up and fought back then,” he said.

Jindal's attack foreshadows a potential fissure developing in the ranks of Republican presidential hopefuls: lawmakers on Capitol Hill who backed the measure to give Congress a say on the deal versus those outside the Beltway, who weren't required to have their fingerprints on a vote.

Though several Senate Republicans now running for president did support the bill, Jindal called out just one specifically -- Ted Cruz of Texas. 

“None of the Senate Republicans running for president, including Senator Cruz, stood up and voted against this bad bill," he said, "and I think they put us in this bad position.”

Cruz defended his stance in a statement in May, saying he decided to vote yes on the final passage because “it may delay, slightly, President Obama's ability to lift the Iran sanctions and it ensures we will have a Congressional debate on the merits of the Iran deal.”

Jindal dismissed this argument, saying Republicans have shown a pattern of "giving up before they fight."

“What’s the point of having a majority if they're not going to fight for our principles?” he said. “I’m angrier with the Republicans. At least the Democrats are honest."

CONVERSATIONS