Both Sides See Advantages in Foreign Policy Fight

NYT FDCarl Hulse March 11, 2015

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Good Wednesday morning from Washington, where Republicans are saying Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meeting with reporters raised as many questions as it answered, lawmakers need to read their bills more carefully, and President Obama is focusing on domestic issues while Congress locks horns over Iran. For Republicans, at least, an old-fashioned foreign policy dispute is just what was needed to bring the party together.

The fight between congressional Republicans and the White House over negotiations with Iran shows no sign of easing and while it appears contentious, both sides find the deadlock somewhat advantageous.

Divided internally over domestic issues such as spending and immigration, Republicans have found a cause that many of them can organize around in challenging President Obama over continuing negotiations with Iran. The foreign policy dispute also provides a new rallying cry for Republicans as economic conditions improve, robbing them of some of the power of that line of attack.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House is happy to stoke outrage from congressional Democrats over what they see as a breach of foreign policy tradition by Republicans who are interfering in delicate international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ability. The more polarized the issue becomes, the thinking goes, the more likely it is that Senate Democrats will shy away from joining Republicans in pushing legislation that gives Congress authority over any final agreement.

The focus remains on foreign policy on Wednesday as top Obama administration officials appear before the Foreign Relations Committee to discuss a proposed authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State. Earlier momentum for that legislation has stalled in the divide over Iran, making an already difficult struggle to come to terms on military force even more unlikely.