Republican lawmakers – but some influential Democrats as well – were angry Monday about the Obama administration's decision to have the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote on the Iran nuclear deal before Congress has had a chance to accept or reject it.
The unanimous UNSC vote in favor of the Iran Monday deal came just hours after the State Department formally sent the agreement to Congress to be reviewed.
Rep. Eliot Engel (NY), the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, joined panel Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif) in a statement that said they were “disappointed” that the UNSC voted “before Congress was able to fully review and act on this agreement.”
“Regardless of this morning’s outcome, Congress will continue to play its role,” they added.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — who last week sent a letter along with the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), asking President Obama to postpone the UN vote — also criticized Monday’s move.
“It is inappropriate to commit the United States to meet certain international obligations without even knowing if Congress and the American people approve or disapprove of the Iran agreement,” Corker said. “During the review period, members on both sides of the aisle will evaluate the agreement carefully, press the administration for answers and then vote their conscience.”
Cardin, for his part, stated before the UN vote: “I think the administration should wait until after Congress has had its review period. I don’t know what is lost by delaying that until after the review period.” He did not criticize the vote after it was held, however.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democrat, has also said that the UNSC vote should not have been held before Congress reviewed the deal.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, called the vote “an affront to the American people,” a phrase that several other Republican senators echoed.
“The administration is more concerned about jamming this deal through than allowing the scrutiny it deserves,” Cornyn said. “Congress will carefully examine this agreement and, regardless of what the U.N. believes, vote it down if it jeopardizes American security and paves the way for a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) used the phrase “capitulation Monday,” pointing to both the Iran vote and Cuba’s opening of an embassy in Washington.
“This is a bad start for a bad deal,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Enabling such a consequential vote just 24 hours after submitting the agreement documents to Congress undermines our national security and violates the spirit of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” Boehner said, referring to the recent law giving Congress 60 days to review the deal.
“The Iranian deal may be good enough for the United Nations but it's a terrible deal for the United States,” Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a statement. “Taking it to the UN before Congress reviews it is an affront to the American people and further evidence of a weak president trying to sell a bad deal. Congress is not bound by today’s UN decision. I look forward to a full and complete debate in the coming weeks.”
Obama administration officials insisted that the UN vote did not sidestep Congress. “No ability of the Congress has been impinged on,” Secretary of State John Kerry stressed Monday. He claimed that the US was under pressure from its allies, who did not like the idea that the US legislatureto could make or break the deal.
“Frankly, some of these other countries were quite resistant to the idea, as sovereign nations, that they were subject to the United States Congress,” he said. “When you’re negotiating with six other countries, it does require, obviously, a measure of sensitivity and multilateral cooperation that has to take into account other nations’ desires.”
“It’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany and Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do.”
Republican opponents of the deal would have to win over at least 13 Democrats in the Senate — and dozens in the House — to override a presidential veto.
President Barack Obama appeared to hope that the UN vote would convince Congress that resisting the deal would be futile. The vote “will send a clear message that the overwhelming number of countries who not only participated in the deal … but who have observed what’s happened, recognize that this is by far our strongest approach to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon,” he said in a brief statement. “My working assumption is that Congress will pay attention to the broad-based consensus.”