Jeb Bush on Thursday added his voice to the chorus of Republican 2016 contenders who would cancel a nuclear deal that President Obama reaches with Iran.
But the former two-term Florida governor appeared more equivocal than some of his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination, telling an audience of the National Review Institute Ideas Summit that he would do so if it made sense for U.S. national security. Bush also appeared to break with some of his party's White House hopefuls when he offered qualified support for a Senate bill that would force a vote on a deal.
"The option, I think, is no congressional oversight at all — not congressional engagement at all, which would be worse than having some engagement. 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 can do," Bush said.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, like Bush a likely candidate for president in 2016, urged the defeat of the Senate bill. "Republicans in the Senate confused influence with acquiescence and mistakenly fought for the power to rubber stamp a bad deal. We needed to have Congress improve the deal, not just approve the deal," Jindal said.
Conservative critics of the legislation, sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., say it creates too high of a bar to stop the emerging agreement to limit Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities between Tehran and the U.S. and other world powers. The bill would force a vote on any accord, but unless Congress mustered a veto-proof majority to block a deal, it would proceed.
The bill was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 19-0 vote. But it has since bogged down during the floor debate over a push by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, an announced presidential candidate, to amend the legislation to force Iran to recognize the existence of Israel. On that, Bush appeared conflicted.
"I understand the sentiment, I don't know if that kills the bill," he said, before elaborating on his opposition to the pending deal with Iran.
"The reason why this is a bad deal is, Iran hasn't recognized Israel and its right to be a Jewish state," he said. "Iran has destabilized the region that we're now engaged in. 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 you're likely to have our strongest ally in the region be threatened. So I think this is a horrific deal."
Asked directly during a question and answer session if he would cancel the deal if he's elected president in 2016, Bush said: "If it's in the security interests of the United States, absolutely. Another hypothetical is that this is done by executive order. As we know, the president is proud of using authority he does and sometimes doesn't have."