House Dem on White House Iran Strategy: 'The Imperial Presidency Grows Further'
Rep. Sherman noted that despite the administration maintaining that the Iranian economy is still suffering from the weight of sanctions, "the fact is, their economy is growing at 2 percent now. In America, we call that a recovery, not a regime endangerment."
"I don't think we're going to negotiate a good enough deal," Rep. Sherman continued. "Not because Ambassador Sherman is a bad negotiator, but because I don't think you have enough leverage. We should pass sanctions now that go into effect in January or February. And I know that Secretary Kerry has reported in the press to have thought that that was a good idea, but needed to check with the White House. He checked with the White House. And then he -- and then the reports in the press was that he never said it to begin with. In any case, you need that additional leverage."
Rep. Sherman asked Cohen if "the administration, without Congress, can use the power we have given you to waive individual transactions, and instead, waive whole classes of transactions."
"Do you need Congress, or can you just stretch the existing law so as to give the Iranians the ability to operate sanction-free?" he asked.
"The position of the administration is, as we look forward in a comprehensive agreement, if one is to be had, to involve Congress in every step of the way -- close consultation," Cohen replied.
"Look, you're going to talk to us all we want. Let's say we say no to this deal. Are you going to be able to implement anyway by stretching the statutes and using your case-by-case waiver to make blanket waivers that deliver to the Iranians?" shot back Rep. Sherman. "And do you realize and do the Iranians realize that the next president may be elected on a platform of no more waivers?"
"'Consultation' means we'll tell you no and you'll do it anyway," continued the California Dem. "Let's say we say no in every meeting and every vote on the floor. You going to do it anyway or do you have the right to do it anyway?"
"Congressman, I'm not in a position to answer that question," Cohen said.
"In other words, the imperial presidency grows further," said Rep. Sherman.
The congressman sparred with a fellow Democrat on the panel over his suggestion of one way Iran could be compelled to cooperate.
"The other additional leverage you need is for Israel not to just have 2,000- to 5,000-pound bunker-buster bombs, but the truly massive 30,000-pound bombs. Now -- and the B-52s, which we have in our boneyard, necessary to deliver them," Rep. Sherman said. "I'm not saying you make that transfer immediately, but you begin efforts toward that transfer, and I think you'll see a much better response between now and November."
"All options need to be on the table. And, frankly, the military option comes more out of Jerusalem than it comes out of Washington."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he was "a little fearful that we may be making perfect be the enemy of the good and I -- especially when we talk about a military response from Israel as if that's the only solution."
"I'm sure my friend didn't mean that but when we talk about 30,000-pound bunker-busters and taking airplanes out of the boneyard to deliver them, that certainly sounds like we favor a military option before we have completed the diplomatic process," Connolly said.
"Just for the -- the record, I said no actual transfer, just be in the process until after November," Rep. Sherman cut in.
"I would just caution that we're in the middle of a diplomatic process and if Congress to intervene that way, it sends a clear signal that we have given up on the diplomatic process and at least, this member of Congress -- and I believe there are others -- is not quite ready to make that judgment just yet," Connolly said.