Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared a week ago that “we’ve got 66 now” to override President Obama’s promised veto of legislation to require congressional review of any deal with Iran.
Now, after a week of heavy White House lobbying of lawmakers, Graham stands by that assessment.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act on the eve of the AIPAC conference and Netanyahu visit along with Graham and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). The bill mandates that the president submit the text of any nuclear agreement with Iran to Congress and prohibits the administration from suspending congressional sanctions for 60 days. During that period, Congress would have the opportunity to hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement.
Critics of the recent GOP open letter to ayatollahs in Iran have said the outcry over the move would dial back Democratic support for the bill, but even Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged that wouldn’t be the case.
Politico reported that the White House wants Democrats who are planning to defect to contact them first, and even President Obama has been personally trying to whip key Dems. But when Reid was asked Tuesday whether he’s lobbying his caucus to oppose Corker-Menendez, he quickly replied, “No.”
Said Graham on Thursday night: “We are going to override his veto.”
“I think we’ll have enough democrats that will say the following: Mr. President, you negotiate the deal, you are the commander and chief, and you are the president. When it comes to lifting congressional sanctions that we have created with 100 to nothing vote we are going to have a say before you lift those congressional sanctions,” Graham told Fox.
“It may slip a little bit because they are asking until the end of the month to finish the framework agreement,” he said, noting “the Iranians are dragging this out.”
“Democrats are saying the following: We are going to allow them to the end of the month to negotiate a framework agreement, then all bets are off… Here is what the president needs to understand. If you go to the UN Security Council and try to bypass the congress to get this deal approved by the UN Security Council but not come to your own Congress, then you are going to risk Congress cutting off money to the United Nations.”
Graham stressed that Congress would be “marginalized” if they’re bypassed on sanctions.
“Here’s the question, if we think it’s a bad deal, one, not even guaranteeing we can look at it, you can imagine a deal of this consequence and they don’t want to share it with their own Congress,” he said. “Here is the deal, if they try to go to the UN Security council and bypass us and leave us as the last guy standing, then they there will be a violent reaction against the United Nations, 22 percent of the funding for the United Nations comes from the American taxpayer and I’m in charge of that account. I’m not going to allow the United Nations to be used as a way to get around the United States Congress for a deal that affects the very existence of Israel and our own national security. The worst possible outcome is for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.”
Graham is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
“If the UN Did something that provocative, lift the sanctions before we ever got a chance to look at it in Congress, if they go to the UN Security Council and the UN Security Council lifts all sanctions before we ever get a chance to look at this deal, absolutely I would suspend funding the United Nations, because I don’t think your money should go to an organization that irresponsible,” the senator continued.
“…If this is a good deal I will vote for it. But I’m not going to be dealt out. They are about to make a mistake for the ages. In my view when he drew the red line in Syria and did nothing about it the Iranians are not taking him serious and we started with dismantling their program as the goal. Now we are locking in a program that can be broken out in a year. We have changed the goal. And Arabs and Israelis have one thing in common. They are not going to let the Iranians have a nuclear advantage over them. The president is about to start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if he doesn’t watch it.”