Georgia’s Senators Seek Role in Iranian Nuke Deal; Rouhani and Obama Seek Limits on Congressional Role
From Macon Monitor staff reports
Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, on April 14, 2015 joined in co-sponsoring a bi-partisan bill that passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 19-0. Both of Georgia’s senators sit on that committee. The bill awaits full Senate consideration in the coming weeks. President Obama has indicated increasing enthusiasm for the bill, and is expected to sign it.
If passed as expected, the bill would mean that the Obama administration can suspend economic sanctions that Congress previously passed against Iran if, within 30 days of the nuclear deal’s finalization, Congress does not pass another sanctions resolution. After possible passage of a new sanctions resolution, the President would then have 12 days to decide whether to veto it, after which Congress would have 10 days to override the veto — but only on the basis of a two-thirds vote.
A treaty on a matter like nuclear weaponry and power development would ordinarily require two-thirds of the sitting members of the Senate to concur. In other words, only one-third of the sitting Senate members plus one member would be required to reject a treaty.
There was no direct reference in the Senate’s bill to any question about whether the Senate would assert the right to ratify the treaty. However, there is reason to suspect that the Senate is indicating that it will relinquish that opportunity in return for the more remote possibility of overriding a presidential veto. The Obama administration insists that its support for the bill is contingent on it being the only concession to congressional participation in the process of negotiating with Iran.
Such a deal is understandable from the Senate Republicans’ perspective if one assumes that the administration would not willingly deliver a deal on Iranian nukes to the Senate for advice and consent. That would require the Senate to assert its own characterization of the deal as a treaty instead of an executive agreement. Assuming the Senate’s cloture rule of needing 60 votes in the 100-member Senate remains intact, Democrats in the Senate acting in concert would retain the ability to stop any Senate action asserting the deal as a treaty.
Republican Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson was quoted as indicating that the April 14 bill provides for the Senate “an incredibly limited role. It is a far cry from advice and consent.”
Senators Isakson and Perdue also agreed to the administration’s request that the bill strip out a prior requirement that the President certify that Iran is not directly supporting terrorist attacks against the United States or its citizens. The administration stated that terrorism was not part of the negotiations with Iran, so would be off-point. However, the administration did agree in the proposed bill to provide Congress with detailed reports on Iranian terrorism against the U.S., and about Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement.
There is still some question about whether amendments to the bill might be entertained from the Senate floor. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, for instance, has proposed an amendment that would require Iran to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. In last week’s Macon Monitor, it was reported that an Iranian general recently stated that wiping Israel off the map is “nonnegotiable.”
Although the staff of both Georgia senators had been communicating with the Macon Monitor until the time the bill was voted out of the committee, neither senator offered any comment on April 17 about whether they would support additional amendments like Rubio’s, or assert a senatorial right to ratify any deal with Iran under the treaty clause of the Constitution.
Senator Isakson had proposed his own amendment seeking reparations from the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis. Three of those former hostages live in Georgia. Isakson agreed to remove that proposed amendment, but did secure a positive endorsement of the Foreign Relations committee by unanimous vote as to the substance of the proposed amendment. However, that endorsement would have no legal effect.
The day after the bill passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in a speech objected to any congressional intervention in the dealings among the leaders of the seven nations involved in the negotiations.