GOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions

GOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions

Congressional Republicans quickly pounced Friday on a report that the administration agreed to support lifting United Nations sanctions on two Iranian banks on the same day the countries swapped prisoners. 

GOP lawmakers, fuming over a Wall Street Journal report, argue the allegations are the latest example of President Obama caving to Iran since last year's nuclear agreement, which every Republican in Congress opposed. 

Al-Monitor first reported the agreement in January, but the Journal's Thursday report outlining secret documents signed by senior State Department official Brett McGurk stoked lawmakers' fury.

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Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai Biden says he's 'considering' a diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics MORE (R-Ark.) called the new allegations a "blatant quid pro quo."

"When the Senate is back in session, I will work with my colleagues to make sure administration officials—including Brett McGurk—are called to testify publicly about their role in this shameful charade," he said in a statement. 

Republicans argue the decision to lift U.N. sanctions against the banks—which weren't set to expire until 2023—coupled with $1.7 billion paid to Iran earlier this year in foreign cash underscores that the Obama administration agreed to a "ransom" for American prisoners that were released from Iran in January. 

"Clinging to the absurd fiction that these concessions to Iran did not amount to ransom, President Obama and his Administration are treating the American people like fools. All in a day’s work of bending the knee to America’s adversaries in the name of diplomacy," Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-ARiz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Rubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said separately that Obama "continues to put his political legacy above the safety and security of the American people.”

The fallout comes as Republicans in Congress have tried to crackdown on the Obama administration's ability to pay cash to Iran in the future. 

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) introduced legislation this week that would block cash or precious metal payments to state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran, as well as North Korea. 

The House last week passed a bills banning the U.S. from paying cash payments to Iran and requiring the Treasury Department to release a report on assets controlled by Iranian political and military leaders.

“This story grows more disturbing with each passing day,” said Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE (R-Wis.) in a statement Friday. “These additional secret concessions directly jeopardize our national security, and cast further doubt on this flimsy agreement. President Obama owes the American people an immediate explanation.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said the agreement would help fund ballistic missiles.

"Making massive cash payments to Iran, agreeing to lift sanctions on the banks that fund Iran’s missile program, and concealing these facts from Congress and the American people are indescribably reckless,' said Hensarling. "This makes the world an even more dangerous place."

--Updated at 3:37 p.m. with additional reporting