The Corner

Senator Ted Cruz and House Republicans Move to Block Obama’s Iran Deal

In response to Justify Me

We have an excellent editorial on the home page today, urging the Senate to follow the House’s lead and attempt to put the brakes on President Obama’s Iran deal rather than pushing it to the finish line through the rigged review process that guarantees Obama victory under the Corker law (the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015).

As the editorial explains, the House strategy is now to pursue three resolutions: (1) finding Obama has not complied with the Corker law’s requirement that he provide the entire Iran deal to Congress – which he needed to do to trigger the review process; (2) barring Obama from lifting sanctions; and (3) proposing a certificate of approval (not disapproval) that would force Democrats who support Obama’s deal – which would provide over $100 billion to the world’s leading state sponsor of jihadist terror – to go on record.

Along similar lines, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) has now proposed a concrete plan to undermine the Iran deal and, in particular, to stop the lifting of sanctions. The plan is outlined in a letter from Senator Cruz to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. Cruz’s plan, too, is a “three-step process,” and the elegant simplicity of it is that it just calls on Republicans to follow the letter of the Corker Law that they themselves wrote and Obama signed only four months ago.

Cruz’s three steps recommend that McConnell and Boehner do the following (I will quote them from the letter):

  1. Both of you should formally determine that, under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, also known as Corker-Cardin, because President Obama has not submitted to Congress the widely reported side deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the President has not yet submitted the Iran agreement as required by Corker-Cardin.  Therefore, the 60-day clock for congressional review has not yet begun to run.  And, critically, as a result, federal law prohibits the Obama Administration from lifting sanctions.
  2. Leader McConnell should introduce a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that, if the agreement had been introduced as a treaty, it should not be ratified.  This will put everyone on record and will make clear that there is insufficient support in the Senate for approving the agreement as a treaty.
  3. We can assume, based on his past practice, that President Obama 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.  Having spent years advising major corporations in private practice, I can tell you that their general counsels will likely tell them their legal exposure is real, which could well result in the banks deciding not to release the funds to Iran, the President’s lawless waivers notwithstanding. [Emphasis in original.]

As I explained in a post yesterday, and as point 3 above illustrates, a major objective of the plan is to keep the against Iran sanctions in place. Under Corker, President Obama is not authorized to lift sanctions in the period from the time he was supposed to provide the entire Iran deal to Congress (July 19) until Congress’s review period and voting on the deal is finally over – 60 days, plus additional time for voting on a resolution of disapproval and attempting to override Obama’s certain veto of it. Because Obama has not complied with the Corker requirement that he provide Congress with every component of the agreement, including all side deals, the 60-day review period has never started to run. Meanwhile, the sanctions remain in place (albeit with Obama able to waive them – although not lift them permanently).

I have argued, based on the statute’s plain language of Corker, that the Corker law should be deemed moot because it mandated that Obama to provide the full Iran deal to Congress within five days of reaching it – that is, by July 19. But if one takes the position, also based on Corker, that the review period does not start until Obama provides the full agreement, then it may be possible under Cruz’s plan to keep the sanctions in place for many months – especially if Obama continues to stonewall on the side agreements, as I believe he will.

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