GOP leaders to Obama: Leave Iran policy to Trump

GOP leaders to Obama: Leave Iran policy to Trump
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

House Republican leaders are pressing President Obama to refrain from boosting business ties between the United States and Iran before leaving office.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ed Royce (Calif.) in a Tuesday letter urged the administration to “take no further actions designed to bolster international investment in Iran.”

The Republican leaders said Obama owes President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE, who opposes the Iran nuclear deal, “the opportunity to assess United States policy toward Iran without your administration imposing or implementing additional measures that could complicate the incoming administration’s ability to develop its policy.”

“We urge you not to take any action that would weaken United States or multilateral sanctions or other restrictions against Iran in this post-election period,” the leaders wrote.

The Obama administration is reportedly considering ways to relax economic sanctions with Iran before leaving office, including issuing licenses to American businesses to enter the Iranian market and reducing other financial sanctions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Such steps could make it harder for Trump to reverse the Iran deal that the U.S. negotiated with other world powers. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

The GOP leaders, on the other hand, said Obama should sign an extension of economic sanctions on Iran. That bill passed the House last week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJuan Williams: Trump’s policies on race are more important than his rhetoric It’s Mitch McConnell’s Washington – and we’re just living in it Trump makes new overtures to Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) said he expects it to pass the upper chamber. Some Senate Democrats have pushed backed on the bill.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was noncommittal about future actions on Tuesday, telling reporters he had no announcements to preview. 

But he made it clear the White House won't change course on its enforcement of the deal. 

“This administration until Jan. 20 will fulfill our obligations under the Iran deal," he said. “The steps that have been taken thus far have enhanced the national security of the U.S. significantly.” 

He added, “I do not anticipate any actions being taken that were initiated after the election solely in response to Mr. Trump’s victory.”  If any actions are announced, “they have been in the pipeline for some time” and are consistent with the deal. 

Earnest also stressed that "the risks of pulling out of that agreement or doing something in violation of that agreement are grave."

If any actions are announced, “they have been in the pipeline for some time” and are consistent with the deal. Obama has faced a flurry of pushback — sometimes bipartisan — on his administration’s dealings with Iran. Republicans and some Democrats expressed concern over lawsuit settlement that coincided with a prisoner swap, bringing home four American prisoners in Iran. The $1.7 billion settlement of a nearly 40-year-old lawsuit was paid in cash, which Republicans called a “ransom” payment.

Since September, the House has passed bills to block cash payments to Iran, ban aircraft sales to Iran, and mandate the Treasury Department to issue a report on assets held by Iranian government and military leaders. 

Jordan Fabian contributed.

Updated at 12:49 p.m.