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Can Congressional Conservatives Still Defeat Horrific Iran Deal?

Can Congressional Conservatives Still Defeat Horrific Iran Deal?

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.


Mirabelle is a non-practicing lawyer and blogger, writing about Israel, the US-Israel relationship, and media bias at On twitter: @MirabelleW18 


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One person only is to blame and that is RINO “turtle” McConnell.

Had he first demanded that the president submit any negotiated “agreement” as a treaty, this would have been history already as there would have been no way that the required two thirds majority to approve could have been raised.

The House should have never even been involved PERIOD!

But leave it to the chief surrender monkey McConnell to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory simply by ignoring the Advice and Consent provisions of the Constitution…

    buckeyeminuteman in reply to GrumpyOne. | September 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Who is most responsible for WWII, Hitler or Chamberlain? Impossible to answer with 100% certainty. The same is true here.

    Milhouse in reply to GrumpyOne. | September 12, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Wrong. Had McConnell demanded that the president submit any negotiated “agreement” as a treaty, the president would have refused.

    The president is under no obligation whatsoever to submit his agreements for ratification as treaties. Even if the senate support a deal, and are eager to ratify it, the president may not want it to have the status of a treaty, so he will not submit it, and the senate’s opinion on the matter is irrelevant. The president makes treaties, not the senate.

Unfortunately with McConnell, Boehner and Corker selling us out (because they want the sanctions lifted to help their friends make money off Iran) nothing is going to happen. This has been revealing on the level of corruption that exists in both parties. God help us.

All of the discussion about not lifting sanctions is merely empty talk. When Obama lifts the sanctions citing the Corker Bill and that the administration’s interpretation of the bill is that the terms have been met, how can anyone stop him? All the Republicans can do is try to make political opportunity out of their failure and shortsightedness.

The Corker Bill, by giving the executive a method to remove the sanctions, removed the sanctions. The only way to preserve them is through a veto-proof vote that re-establishes the sanctions (overrides the Corker Bill)and we know that there is not a veto-proof majority to preserve the sanctions. The Corker Bill was a Trojan horse and an example of Congressional leadership playacting.

    Milhouse in reply to justaguy. | September 12, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    The Corker Bill, by giving the executive a method to remove the sanction

    That is a blatant, outrageous lie.

    The only way to preserve them is through a veto-proof vote that re-establishes the sanctions (overrides the Corker Bill)

    Wrong. The whole point of the Corker Bill was to give Congress time to put together the numbers for just such a bill. Without it 0bama could waive the sanctions any time he liked, or rather as soon as the UN sanctions go away, which might happen any day now. Corker/Menendez gave Congress a 60-day and 10-day window to stop it. Unfortunately the numbers have so far proved not to be there.

…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.

This is pretty much a given. At this moment, plans are most likely being drafted/already sent out with detailed instructions on what to do the moment the president makes the announcement, most probably on a day when congress is not in session, in the afternoon, so that by quitting time, all those billions of dollars will already be transferred before any objection can be raised.

And it goes without saying that a certain fraction of those billions of dollars will come back as political contributions to those who voted the ‘right’ way.

    Ragspierre in reply to georgfelis. | September 11, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Ah, but you forget the shot Cruz fired before the bows of the banks holding Iranian assets…a shot that will have the effect of making them VERY hesitant about releasing Iranian funds!

    Cruz is no dummy. Whatever happens here, he has acquitted himself very well, and not just in atmospherics. He’d actually fought this thing with real weapons, whatever the outcome. You can’t ask more of anyone.

If the administration allows the transfer, how can the banks hold off? They would be liable. Moreover, it will be hard to retroactively declare actions legal and authorized under one administration as illegal under another. Currently the courts look down on that. Republicans aren’t the ones to use the Government prosecution as punishment, only Democrats.

    Ragspierre in reply to justaguy. | September 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Liable for WHAT? To WHOM?

    You must know some very strange bankers who are anxious to give over billions of dollars in assets they are earning money on!

    It cost them very little to say, “Golly, we’re kind of confused by all this politicking. So, courts, we need some direction here! Hep us.”

    Which would take about a decade.

      “Liable for WHAT? To WHOM?”

      Nice little bank you have there Mr. Banker, be a shame to have the feds come in and conduct an audit…

      They’ll cave immediately and release the funds.

        justaguy in reply to Barry. | September 12, 2015 at 7:56 am

        My point about the banks being liable was without specific reference. Once the administration legally lifts the sanctions, the banks have to follow the laws and contracts they agreed to follow. Even if it might be an iffy proposition in some US courts (doubtful), I could easily see Iran suing a bank in a friendly European court for their funds.

        With the administration telling the world it the sanctions are lifted, what legal right could any bank have not to give up the funds? This is a losing situation for any bank. Banks do not want to be a part of politics, only lobbying.

        Milhouse in reply to Barry. | September 12, 2015 at 9:45 pm

        Not if they can claim to be afraid of being held liable for releasing them. They’ll do the prudent thing and keep the funds until someone gets a court order so their fundaments are covered.

      Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | September 11, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Banks are audited regularly.

      Ever hear the term “interpleader”? One of us knows what he’s talking about.

        “Ever hear the term “interpleader”?”

        No, had to look it up. Learned a new word, although I knew the situation existed.

        Has nothing to do with my comment however.

        Some audits are more important than other audits. As a lawyer I know you know this. I have two CPA’s in my family. Trouble can usually be made when needed.

        I know you do not think it beyond the realm of possibility that the federal government will “lean”, heavily, on the banks to comply.

          Milhouse in reply to Barry. | September 12, 2015 at 9:47 pm

          And Cruz has given them the ammunition to resist that leaning. He’s put them on notice that if they comply they may end up being held liable. Even if his theory is wrong (as I think it is) it’s enough for them to say they need a court order, which will kick the question into the judiciary’s lap.

          Barry in reply to Barry. | September 13, 2015 at 4:09 pm

          “And Cruz has given them the ammunition to resist that leaning.”

          Possibly. I also know who runs some of our banks. I’m not so sure what they will do when leaned upon by the federal bureaucracy. And they can lean rather heavily.

          I believe Obama is on the side of iran. Leaning will occur…

Why do we bother talking about what the law does or doesn’t allow? Who in DC follows the law? It is followed when convenient, ignored when not, and there is no enforcement – all by mutual agreement between the parties.

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.

I don’t think this can be correct. The Iran-IAEA side-deals are not part of this agreement, the USA is not party to them, so it seems to me that they’re not covered by this requirement. Congress can only demand access to agreements that the administration is party to, and therefore possesses. That would include any side-deals that the administration made. But it can’t possibly include deals between two other entities. Suppose Russia and China made a side-deal between them; how could 0bama possibly have been expected to submit that to Congress?

It is a nice try, though. It’s a plausible enough theory that a court might agree to hear it, or at least a bank might pretend to be worried about it, and demand a court order before releasing money. Any delay is a good thing, because it narrows the window for damage to be done before there’s a new president.