Washington, DC is a confusing place.
I keep hearing very reputable journalists report that the new law on Iran sanctions will give Congress the ability to “kill” any potential agreement.
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I don’t think that is right, but I’ve been doubting myself because so many people are saying it. I’ve gone back three times and read the bill.
Here is what the law actually does. It gives Congress the power to stop the US president from lifting US sanctions on Iran.
If you look at the numbers, it’s pretty certain that they will only be able to stop him for a short time.
It doesn’t stop President Barack Obama from making the agreement or going to the UN and lifting international sanctions.
So I’ve been trying to figure out how that could “kill” any potential agreement.
The only thing I can think of is the mentality that the US is the centre of the world is behind the assumption.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Congress will override a presidential veto and forbid him from waiving most US sanctions on Iran.
I can only guess that these people are assuming that without US sanctions relief Iran would walk away from their side of the bargain.
Why would they do that? They would basically be saying “I can now do business with the entire globe except America, but that is just not good enough.”
The White House doesn’t believe Congress can now say yes or no to a deal. This is what White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said as the bill was making its way through Congress:
“The bill that has passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support essentially is a vote to vote later on congressional sanctions and not the decision about whether or not to enter into the agreement, that would certainly resolve some of the concerns we’ve expressed about the authority that is exercised by the president of the United States to conduct foreign policy.”
The president would never give up his right to act as the sole “decider” on foreign policy.
He doesn’t need congressional approval to do whatever he feels like at the UN. He was smart enough to not frame this as an official treaty.
The Senate would have had to weigh in on that and with the lobbying that is taking place, it never would have passed.
I have to think the reason behind this mischaracterisation is coming from some members of Congress. They can tell their constituents that they are “being tough”.
They can vote their disapproval knowing, in the end, it won’t change a thing.
I don’t know if the negotiators will actually get a deal, but I’m certain about this Congress can’t kill it if they do.
They can try to force Iran to walk away. They can embarrass their president on the world stage. They can keep American companies from benefiting from any sanctions relief in Iran.
They can complain and they will.
If they get a deal we will see a mad dash by members of Congress to the closest camera.
There will be outrage, and name calling, but in the end that will likely be the extent of what Congress can do – because no matter what the politicians say, they really have little power to stop it.