“Mr. Leader, you have already taken unprecedented steps to take away the rights of the minority in the Senate,” the letter states. “Please do not take further steps to take away the rights of a bipartisan majority as well… It’s time for the elected representatives of the American people to have a say in the future of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
One of the signatories on the letter, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said on the floor this morning that despite the nearly filibuster-proof number of co-sponsors, “one person – one senator – is preventing a vote on it.”
“And that is wrong. In a matter of this importance, we should have a vote on this. And the use of procedural motions and the power of the Majority Leader to prevent a vote on something of this importance has long-term implications on our national security of extraordinary proportions,” Rubio said.
“…I promise you – and that’s why I’m saying this on the floor so that it’s recorded and so people know where I stood on this before it happens – I promise you, if Iran is allowed to maintain any sort of enrichment capability in our lifetime, in fact I believe before the end of this decade, God forbid, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And one day we will wake up to the news that they have tested a device, or have proven the capability of having one. And when that day comes, God help us all,” he continued.
“So I hope that we can have a vote on the Senate floor on this issue. Let’s have a debate on it. Let’s have a frank and open discussion about it. But why are we preventing that from happening? Why is the Majority Leader preventing that from happening? It is inexcusable, it is unacceptable. And so I hope we’ll have a vote on it, sooner rather than later.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Obama that it’s unacceptable to just peel back sanctions law without coming to Congress to approve the Iran deal.
At a Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week, Paul asked Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman whether the administration felt bound to comply with the existing sanctions laws, particularly the sanctions laid out in the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA).
CISADA, as modified by ITRA, only allows for termination of sanctions after Iran has verifiably dismantled its military-nuclear, biological, chemical, ballistic missile and ballistic missile launch technology programs and is no longer acting as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“As you are aware, our existing sanctions on Iran are triggered by both statutory and executive authority. While I respect your authority regarding those sanctions lawfully initiated by Executive Order pursuant to legal authority, I would urge your Administration to use caution as you negotiate over sanctions that have been applied statutorily – that is, passed by Congress, and signed into law by the President of the United States,” Paul wrote to Obama today.
“On a foreign policy issue of this magnitude, it is my strong belief that any further agreement – be it interim or final – that lifts statutory sanctions on Iran should require approval by the Congress before taking effect. Please let me know if it is your intent to seek this approval for any subsequent interim or final deal.”
Menendez pointed out in his floor speech that the text of the Joint Plan of Action, released to members of Congress in full but not to the general public, states “the U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.”
“The agreement acknowledges that the Administration – not Congress – will refrain from imposing new sanctions. The Administration knew it could not bind Congress to refrain from imposing new sanctions – because Congress is a separate co-equal branch of government,” he said. “So let’s focus on what was agreed to by those at the table rather than attributing blame to those who were not.”
“We will not be the scapegoats for a bad deal if it does not take the nuclear weapons option off the table by insisting on dismantling existing capability, not simply mothballing it.”