Senators balk at UN action on Iran

Senators balk at UN action on Iran
© Greg Nash

President Obama should not go to the United Nations with a proposal to lift sanctions on Iran before Congress acts, said Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins Senate passes resolution honoring victims of Capital Gazette shooting MORE (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Cardin said the administration should not move forward with a proposal to draft a new U.N. resolution affecting international sanctions until lawmakers have a chance to review the nuclear deal, which was unveiled this week.

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“Acting on it at this stage is a confusing message to an independent review by Congress over these next 60 days. So I think it would be far better to have that vote after the 60-day review, assuming that the agreement is not effectively rejected by Congress,” Cardin told reporters after meeting with Vice President Biden Thursday.

“If the United States is signing onto the United Nations program and later on we’re not part of it, what we’ll do is inconsistent with the U.N. resolution, so it would be better not to have action on the U.N. resolution,” he said.

Cardin said he has communicated his concerns to senior administration officials.

Samantha PowerSamantha Jane PowerFormer UN envoys urge Pompeo to restore funding for Palestinian aid agency Overnight Defense: White House 'strongly objects' to ZTE provision | Senate subpanel advances 5B Pentagon spending bill | New questions about VA pick Advocates urge Trump to extend protected status for Yemenis amid civil war MORE, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution that would end international sanctions on Iran once the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies its compliance with a deal curbing its nuclear program

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerHistory argues for Democratic Senate gains GOP to White House: End summit mystery The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia MORE (R-Tenn.) said he told Power the action is inappropriate.

"I'm sorry, I look at that as an affront to the American people. I look at that as an affront to Congress and the House of Representatives. I talked to them this morning about the fact that I don't think that was a prudent step. I just talked to our U.N. ambassador," he told reporters.

Corker and Cardin sent a letter to Obama Thursday urging him to postpone a U.N. vote.

“We are deeply concerned that your administration plans to enable the United Nations Security Council to vote on the agreement before the United States Congress can do the same,” they wrote.

They argued such a vote would contradict Obama’s pledge to give the American public and Congress full opportunity to review the deal.

Cardin said lawmakers were surprised the administration decided to move forward with action to ease international sanctions before Congress weighs in.

“We sort of assumed that we would have this 60-day period without that action,” he said.

He noted, however, that the U.N. would not have a chance to lift sanctions before Congress votes on a resolution of disapproval that could scrap the deal. The new U.N. resolution cannot take effect for 90 days, which would delay the lifting of international sanctions until October.  

“The administration said, 'Look, we’ll take it to the U.N., but it can’t take effect until 90 days later,' so they think they probably complied with the spirit of the 60-day review,” he added.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGraham would consider US-Russia military coordination in Syria Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race MORE (Va.), a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that Congress only has authority over sanctions it imposes through legislation. He said that lawmakers knew that sanctions imposed by the executive branch or the international community could be lifted independently of congressional action.

“Congress very clearly specified in the Review Act, that on sanctions that Congress didn’t have anything to do with — executive sanctions, they could act unilaterally, and international sanctions, they could act with the support of international partners,” he said, making reference to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

Kaine said the administration and lawmakers reached an agreement on the review legislation passed earlier this year once it was established that Congress would only have authority of sanctions it had imposed.

“If Congress didn’t impose the sanctions and didn’t include them by reference in statutory sanctions, then the White House can move on those without a vote of Congress and everyone understood that two months ago when we voted on the bill,” he said.

The issue came up during a briefing Biden gave to Democratic members of the Foreign Relations panel that lasted for more than an hour Thursday.