Lawmakers Angry Iran Nuclear Deal Went to U.N. First

Lawmakers Angry Iran Nuclear Deal Went to U.N. First
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The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed the nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States and five other nations Monday, infuriating lawmakers on Capitol Hill who feel the Obama administration skirted the legislative branch by moving to the international body so quickly.

The 15 members of the security council voted unanimously to endorse the agreement announced last week – members who represent the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, five of the six countries (along with Germany) that negotiated with Iran. The vote came the same day the clock started for members of Congress, who now have 60 days to review the nuclear agreement and vote on a resolution of approval or disapproval. Given that their work has just begun, members were frustrated that the agreement already had the U.N. seal of approval, viewing the move as Obama going back on his word to allow Congress to have a say in the agreement.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, called the vote “an affront to the American people,” a phrase that several other Republican senators echoed.

“The administration is more concerned about jamming this deal through than allowing the scrutiny it deserves,” Cornyn said. “Congress will carefully examine this agreement and, regardless of what the U.N. believes, vote it down if it jeopardizes American security and paves the way for a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Congress can disapprove of the deal, which would block Obama from lifting congressional sanctions against Iran, thanks to a law passed earlier this year with the support of 98 senators and 400 members of the House. Sens. Bob Corker and Ben Cardin, the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee who marshaled that bill into law, sent a letter to Obama last week reminding him of Congress’ rights and urging the president to postpone the U.N. vote.

Corker, like Cornyn, called it an “affront to the American people” and said it showed bad judgment on the part of the White House.

“They’re going to be agreeing to an agreement that they don’t even know they can implement,” Corker said.

Cardin, who took over as the top Democrat on the committee earlier this year after Sen. Bob Menendez stepped down, said the issue was discussed Thursday when Vice President Joe Biden met with Democratic members of the committee. He said there was disagreement about going to the United Nations.

“I think the administration should wait until after Congress has had its review period,” Cardin said. “I don’t know what is lost by delaying that until after the review period.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a presidential candidate and staunch opponent of the agreement, said Congress will continue its review regardless of the U.N. vote.

“The Iranian deal may be good enough for the United Nations but it's a terrible deal for the United States,” Graham said in a statement. “Taking it to the U.N. before Congress reviews it is an affront to the American people and further evidence of a weak president trying to sell a bad deal. Congress is not bound by today’s U.N. decision. I look forward to a full and complete debate in the coming weeks.”

While Republicans were the most vocal in criticizing the decision, they were far from alone. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, said last week that the United Nations should have waited until Congress’ review period before voting on the agreement, calling that “consistent with the intent and substance” of the review law.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent more than two years negotiating with Iranian leaders to reach the agreement, dismissed the lawmakers’ concerns in an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“They have a right to do that, honestly,” Kerry said of the U.N. vote. “It’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany and Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do.”

 

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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