White House: Senators Have No Role In Iran Agreement

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The nation’s 100 senators won’t have any role in approving President Barack Obama’s pending nuclear agreement with Iran’s theocracy because the deal wouldn’t be a treaty, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Earnest told reporters at a midday press conference that it would be a “impactful forceful commitment.”

The negotiations with Iran “seek very serious and firm commitments,” he said.

They would be “specific commitments … a forceful commitment,” he said.

But 47 of 54 Republican senators disagree with President Barack Obama’s definition of the potential deal, and say it would likely be considered a treaty. They released a letter March 10 warning Iranian officials and Obama that the Senate has the constitutional duty to provide advice and consent to treaties negotiated by the administration.

The president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur,” says the U.S. Constitution, which Obama swore to protect and serve in 2009 and 2013.

When the GOP senators claimed their constitutional power over treaties, senior Democrats — including Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — immediately tried to portray the 47 GOP signatories as traitors, Iranian agents and saboteurs.

Obama has kept the details of his negotiations secret from the senators. But the potential deal is regarded by critics as evidence that the United States is giving Iran’s agitating Shia theocracy too much leeway.

The deal is aimed at preventing Iran from being able to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for loosened sanctions, but its framework has yet to address the future of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and enriched uranium, or the country’s development of long-range missiles. It would likely last 10 years and would likely not prevent funding for jihadi groups or protect Iranians’ human or democratic rights.

Obama has said he would continue to push for those priorities after securing the arms deal. He has described the draft deal a way for Iran to gain power and legitimacy in the region.

The Iran deal is similar to the simple troop-basing agreements signed with allied nations of Japan and South Korea, Earnest insisted.

The Iranian deal will have “commitments with the same amount of weight that are struck by the United States and our allies, like Korea and Japan, when it comes to basing agreements about keeping U.S. troops on their soil,” Earnest claimed.

Those basing deals “are forceful because they relate to the ability of our men and women in uniform to do their jobs,” he added.

The Iran deal “is an agreement that is similarly structured” to international agreements that allow multinational seizure of weapons that are being smuggled via international waters, he said.

Obama’s dismissive attitude follows his practice of sidelining the Senate’s role in changing his Obamacare system, in reviewing appointments and in setting immigration law.

In the Iran deal, the 100 senators may have a subsidiary role in future years, Obama’s press secretary granted.

“The administration … does acknowledge that Congress at some point, will, by law, have to vote to remove the statutory sanctions that Congress put in place against Iran,” he said.

But that role won’t begin until years after the “commitments” are put in place, Earnest declared.

“The president does not believe that those statutory sanctions should be removed unless and until Iran has demonstrated, over the course of a number of years, that they are actually living up to the commitments they’ve made with the United States,” Earnest said.

Earnest then argued the president was being tougher on Iran that Republican senators.

“Congress is suggesting that they should take a vote on these sanctions far earlier in the process, and the president doesn’t think that’s wise,” he said, adding “the president thinks, frankly, that we should be tougher on Iran.”

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