National Security

Congress Asserts Itself in Iran Dealings

The former constitutional scholar needs reminding of his proper role.

Mar. 27, 2015

As Barack Obama races headlong toward whatever nuclear deal he can get with Iran, Congress has repeatedly reminded the former college lecturer and “constitutional scholar” that the Constitution does not grant him divine powers – that he is not an emperor, but merely the head of the executive branch of government. That same Constitution charges the Senate to approve or reject foreign treaties through its advice and consent role. And the Congress as a whole is the sole authority for passing legislation, including the legislation that put U.S. sanctions in place against Iran in recent years. Obama’s disdain for our system of checks and balances is well documented, and his “trust me” approach to the Iran negotiations is simply more proof of it.

Finally, it appears that both congressional chambers and both parties have had enough. Three recent events demonstrate the legislative branch’s distrust of the executive when it comes to a deal with Iran.

First, it was 47 Republican senators and their open letter to Iran, making clear that any non-binding deal could be negated at a moment’s notice by a future president. Because of the letter’s 100% Republican backing, it was easy for Obama and his fellow travelers to dismiss its authors as partisans and even “traitors.” As we said at the time, the letter would have been better addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than to Iran, but it was a significant and perfectly legal warning shot all the same.

Then, earlier this week, 367 members of the House, from both sides of the aisle, signed a letter to Barack Obama reminding His Eminence that Congress enacted sanctions on Iran and any relief of those sanctions as part of a deal would require new legislation – not just a wave of his hand. With a veto-proof majority of House members signing this letter, it will be impossible to spin as partisan politics, although we fully expect Obama and his sycophants to try.

Finally, on Thursday, the Senate unanimously endorsed an amendment to its budget that would make it easier to restore sanctions if Iran is caught cheating again. We repeat, a unanimous, 100-0, un-spinnable, no wiggle-room vote of the entire Senate.

California’s Barbara Boxer, not generally known as a foreign policy hawk, endorsed the amendment, saying, “I hope we can all vote for this because it doesn’t do anything to cause disarray in the negotiations. What it says is if there is a deal and there’s a break-out by Iran, we’d have a very quick way to restore sanctions.” The vote was held by roll call at the insistence of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and thus puts all 100 senators on record in favor of the amendment.

It’s unfortunate that the White House and Congress are having this food fight during such a critical moment in U.S. foreign policy, but Obama has only himself to blame. His treatment of Congress, his record of lies and his “we have to get a deal before we share the details” approach have finally exceeded the limits of congressional goodwill. It remains to be seen if Obama will press ahead anyway, but Congress has now drawn its own line in the sand. Let’s hope they stick to it.

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