Is there anything separating Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush on the question of what to do about the Iran deal? As with many issues, the distinction between the two Florida Republicans falls more in the realm of tone and emphasis than on policy.
Both addressed Iran in their appearances at the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit in Washington this week, acknowledging the dangers of the deal to national security and to that of Israel. “The net result of this is we’re likely to have proliferation in the region, you’re likely to have an emboldened Iran, not a humble Iran, and we’re likely to have our strongest ally in the region threated. I think this is a horrific deal,” said Bush Thursday afternoon.
Friday morning, Rubio picked up that theme as well. “I would argue that a bad deal almost guarantees war, because Israel is not going to abide by any deal that they believe puts them and their existence in danger,” he said.
But both men’s responses to the current issue of Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker’s congressional oversight bill illustrate a noticeable difference in how Rubio and Bush think Republicans should respond to the “horrific” deal.
Over the last couple of days in the U.S. Senate, Rubio has stirred up a hornet’s nest with a pair of amendments to the Corker bill that critics have deemed “poison pills.” The first amendment would require, as part of any deal with the U.S., that Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist—a nonstarter for the Islamic Republic. The second amendment contains language requiring the final to deal to “mirror” President Obama’s fact sheet of provisions that arose out of the initial agreement between the U.S. and Iran. Both amendments, say opponents, are designed to kill the Corker bill and with it any chance of congressional oversight of the Iran deal.
At the summit, Rubio claimed to support the Corker bill’s process, saying he prefers it to letting the president invoke national security reasons to lift sanctions through executive order. “I don’t want the bill to go down,” said Rubio. “It’s not perfect, it’s better than nothing, and it creates a process by which the Senate can review what the president does.”
But Rubio also defended the principle of his amendments if they can “force the president” to do certain things that bring about a better deal. “You don’t do a deal with Iran unless Iran acknowledges that Israel has a right to exist,” he said, to a burst of applause. “The criticism of that is, well, a bunch of countries in the Middle East that don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, which is true. But none of them are trying to build a nuclear weapon.”
His second amendment, Rubio said, ties Obama’s hands “with what he’d told us he’d do.” “I don’t think the president’s plan is a good one. I by no means endorse the plan outlined in the fact sheet. But the fact that they are saying that it is a poison pill to require the president to sign a deal that reflects what he says the deal is in and of itself incredibly worrisome,” he said.
Bush also praised congressional oversight, emphasizing that “no congressional engagement at all…would be worse than having some engagement.” And Bush’s comments seemd to reflect a view that the emergence of some deal on Iran is fait accompli, and that the role of congressional Republicans is to show “principled” opposition to it.
“I think Republicans need to be on record opposing whatever happens, if there is to be an agreement, and doing it in a principled way. It sets the stage for what the next president will do as it relates to changing whatever the outcome is,” he said. Bush added that the U.S. “shouldn’t be negotiating at all with Iran.”
Would a President Jeb Bush work to revoke the deal if it went through? “If it’s in the security interests of the United States, absolutely,” Bush responded.