The Congressional Black Caucus should enthusiastically back the U.S.–Iran nuclear agreement.
There’s been lots of excitement about the deal—a global effort that has involved not just the United States and Iran, but also the European Union and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Yet, while Iranians are dancing in the streets and people around the world are cautiously hopeful, Republicans in Congress are threatening to pass legislation that will kill the accord.
Here’s where the Congressional Black Caucus comes in. The likely scenario is that Republicans will use their majorities to pass anti-deal bills, President Obama will veto (with vigor), and the drama of trying to override the veto with a two-thirds vote in each chamber will commence. In the House, Republicans will need roughly forty Democrats to reach that mark.
There are approximately forty voting black Democrats in the House. If they hold firm, the road becomes quite tough for the opposition, since the remaining Democrats will also generally support the president.
Given the stakes, conservatives will be mobilizing heavily to get all members' votes lined up against any agreement. There will be tremendous pressure on those with the Black Caucus, especially representatives from states such as New York, New Jersey, and Florida that have significant Jewish-American populations.
A preview of this pressure was seen in the controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress in March. The Congressional Black Caucus appeared united in the view, rightfully, that it was politically devious and an insult to Obama for House Speaker John Boehner to provide a congressional platform for Netanyahu to criticize the nuclear negotiations. However, despite talk of a collective boycott, half of the caucus members attended the lecture.
In addition, some conservative black religious leaders were brought to Washington to hold a press conference to denounce those members of the caucus who had threatened the boycott. These church figures called for unconditional black community support for Israel and against Obama. Despite the fact that they were representing churches of little note, they generated some press coverage.
The framework for a deal with Iran to end its nuclear ambitions is a turning point in history. By backing and promoting the agreement, the Congressional Black Caucus can help steer us in a new direction.
Clarence Lusane is a professor in the comparative and regional studies program at the School of International Service at American University. He can be reached at email@example.com.