They’re trying to shoot the moon. Can they succeed?
On Tuesday I wrote about National Review contributing editor Andrew C. McCarthy and Representative Mike Pompeo’s clearly accurate assertions that President Obama has failed to comply with the requirements of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Both McCarthy and Pompeo further asserted that this non-compliance meant that the Congressional review period for the proposed nuclear deal with Iran had not started, and therefore that the time within which Congress must vote on it had not yet started.
I also wrote that that McCarthy and Pompeo disagreed about the consequences of this non-compliance, with Pompeo claiming that “the president remains unable lawfully to waive or lift statutory Iran-related sanctions” and McCarthy arguing that Obama still had “authority to waive the existing sanctions — although not to lift them permanently.”
By Wednesday, however, McCarthy had basically — and quite happily, it seems — admitted that his interpretation was wrong. Senator Ted Cruz, he says, explained that,
Under Corker [i.e., the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015] section (b)(3),
“prior to and during the period for transmission of an agreement … and during the period for congressional review … the President may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran[.]”
Further, under other provisions of the Corker law, the prohibition against Obama’s taking actions to lift sanctions is extended to ten days after the date that he vetoes a “resolution of disapproval” (assuming one is passed by both houses of Congress).
Get it? From the time Obama reached the deal with Iran, through the time for congressional review, and for up to ten more days after Obama’s veto of a disapproval resolution, the sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program must remain in place.
Senator Cruz’s point is that the agreement was reached on July 14, so Obama is now trapped in the phase where he is not permitted to lift the sanctions; but because Obama has not disclosed the agreement, the congressional review period has not started, and would not start until the entire agreement is forthcoming. Once it does start, the review period plus the time frame for voting on a disapproval resolution and attempting to override Obama’s veto of it will go on for the better part of three months.
During that whole time, the sanctions must remain in place. Consequently, if GOP leadership takes the position – clearly spelled out in Corker – that the review period will not be deemed to commence until Congress has received the entire deal, the sanctions could be preserved for several more months.
In other words, if McCarthy and Cruz are correct, even sanctions that previously could have been waived by the President unilaterally, now can’t be.
That the administration claims not to be in possession of the missing documents should not be relevant to its obligation under the law. The negotiators in Iran were well aware of the terms of the Corker law, and should have known that they were not permitted to keep parts of the agreement secret.
Despite yesterday afternoon’s filibuster in the Senate, House Republicans are forging ahead. After the Senate’s non-vote, Senator Cruz supported the efforts in the House, continuing to assert that the deal could still be stopped,
First, both leaders should formally declare that President Obama has not submitted the agreement to Congress as required by Corker-Cardin. . . . As a result, critically, federal law prohibits the Obama administration from lifting sanctions under the agreement.
Second, Leader McConnell should schedule a vote on a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that, if the agreement had been introduced as a treaty, it would not be ratified. . . .
Third, given President Obama’s regrettable history of lawlessness, it is reasonable to assume that he will simply ignore the law and declare that he is lifting sanctions under the agreement anyway. On that assumption, we should make clear to the CEOs of banks holding frozen Iranian funds that their misplaced reliance on the president’s lawlessness would not necessarily excuse them from the obligation to comply with existing federal sanctions laws. And if they release billions in funds to Khamenei, they risk billions in civil (and possibly even criminal) liability once President Obama leaves office.
It appeared that many in the House agreed with him when it voted yesterday, by 245-186, on a resolution to “hold President Obama accountable for failing to comply with his obligation under the . . . Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.”
The House then went on to debate two more measures: one, to prohibit the President from temporarily waiving or otherwise lifting sanctions on Iran until January 21, 2017 (when there will be a new President in office), and the other, a straight up-or-down vote on the JCPOA.
The House debated until 10:00 PM Eastern time. Rep. Gary Palmer said during the debate in the House: “If this administration and the supporters of this agreement are wrong and we suffer a catastrophic loss of lives, no one will ever forget what we did here. We will bear the burden of this vote for the rest of our lives.”
Votes on the two measures are scheduled for today.
As was detailed on this blog yesterday, it does not seem that there is support for this plan in the the Senate. The two measure to be voted on today, therefore, are not likely to have much practical effect.
However, the vote that Obama has failed to comply with the Corker law, House Speaker John Boehner has said, could “be the basis of a lawsuit against the Obama administration.” It will be interesting to see whether the revolt against the horrific JCPOA will be taken that far.
Notably, this all happened the day after Iran’s Supreme Leader tweeted that the “Iranian nation did expel this Great Satan,” — that’s us — “we barred their direct access and now we must not allow their indirect access and infiltration,” and that Israel will be gone in 25 years.
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