White House: Iran sanctions will ‘collapse’ if Congress rejects deal

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Congress would damage the country if it voted to reject the nuclear agreement with Iran, the White House said Friday.

“For the United States, because of a congressional action, to isolate our country on such an important issue, would be devastating to our standing in the world,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

{mosads}He noted that the U.S. negotiated the deal with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China and said the crippling effect of international sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.

The sanctions now in place would “collapse” if Congress votes against the pact, Earnest said, removing any leverage world powers have in enforcing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities.

“Iran will get all the benefits of this deal without having to give up anything,” Earnest said.

The White House’s warning to lawmakers comes as it seeks to rally support for the deal in Congress. Lawmakers will have 60 days to consider the agreement before voting to approve or disapprove of it.

Members in both parties have voiced deep skepticism about the deal, and the White House must convince enough Democrats to sustain a veto from President Obama if Congress does vote to reject the agreement.

Republicans disputed that Iran would be let off the hook if Congress kills the deal, arguing U.S. sanctions are the ones that had the most devastating effect on its economy.

“Just three days after the president claimed he wanted a serious, fact-based debate on his Iran deal, this White House is already misleading Americans and only offering false choices,” said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“Is the president afraid he can’t win over the American people, and his own party in Congress, on the details of this agreement?”

Obama has said the deal, which places limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, is the best way to cut off Tehran’s path to a nuclear weapon while avoiding another Middle East war.

Opponents argue the deal does not permanently dismantle Iran’s nuclear facilities and say sanctions relief could allow Tehran to fuel instability in the region.

Earnest brushed aside bipartisan concerns over the Obama administration’s request for the United Nations Security Council to vote on ratifying the agreement before the congressional review period is up.

He said the U.N. vote will have no impact on sanctions imposed by Congress or the president and argued the international body is showing “significant deference” to Congress by postponing implementation of the order for 90 days. Earnest said that delay would allow Congress to have “ample opportunity” to review the deal before it is formally adopted.

But senators in both political parties say by voting first, the U.N. is railroading Congress.

“Acting on it at this stage is a confusing message to an independent review by Congress over these next 60 days,” Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Thursday. “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.”

“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.

– Updated at 3:30 p.m.

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