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March 6, 2015

Posts in "Iran"

March 3, 2015

McConnell’s Turn to Iran Legislation Surprises Democrats (Video) (Updated)

Updated 7:21 p.m. | In between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress and Netanyahu’s meeting with Senate leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to move full speed ahead with legislation to give Congress a say in any potential nuclear deal with Iran.

Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced the details of a bipartisan bill Feb. 27 that would require the Obama administration to transmit any agreement from the international P5+1 talks to Capitol Hill for a 60-day review period. Full story

March 2, 2015

Graham: Senate Could Overcome Veto of Iran Deal Review Legislation

Graham thinks the Senate could override a veto from the president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graham thinks the Senate could override a veto from the president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Could Congress overcome a promised veto of legislation designed to compel the Obama administration to submit any nuclear deal with Iran to Capitol Hill for approval? At least one of the bill’s champions seems to think so.

“To the president: I expect Congress will reject your insistence that we shut up and go in a corner and just not have a say,” South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday on the Fox News Channel, adding that he thought there would be in excess of the 67 votes needed in the Senate to override a veto.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:03 p.m.
Iran, Policy

February 24, 2015

Watch Live: John Kerry Testifies Before Senate Foreign Relations

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the first time in the 114th Congress on the State Department’s fiscal 2016 budget request. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Full story

February 6, 2015

ISIS AUMF Debate a 2016 Foreign Policy Test

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz, left, and Graham are two senators seen as potential Republican candidates for the White House in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress is gearing up — belatedly — for a full-throated war debate that will serve as a proving ground for potential presidential candidates heading into 2016.

With a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group expected on Capitol Hill by the middle of the week, as lawmakers complete work before a weeklong Presidents Day recess, the debate over how much authority to give President Barack Obama will soon take center stage.

The issue will provide opportunities for jockeying among those senators seeking their party’s nomination for president, including Lindsey Graham, who recently announced his intention to explore the possibilities.

Full story

January 28, 2015

Menendez Changes His Tune

Menendez (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Menendez (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Robert Menendez has gone from administration goat to hero in a week.

After declaring, at a hearing following the State of the Union, that White House talking points sound like they were coming “straight out of Tehran,” the New Jersey Democrat is back on board as Democrats unify against voting on Iran sanctions for about two months. Full story

January 27, 2015

7 Democrats Said to Back New Iran Sanctions Bill

Manchin, left, is among the Democrats backing Kirk's latest Iran sanctions proposal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Manchin, left, is among the Democrats backing Kirk’s latest Iran sanctions proposal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Some Democratic supporters opposed to immediate floor consideration of more conditional sanctions against Iran are signing new legislation spearheaded by Sen. Mark S. Kirk.

The Illinois Republican’s longtime partner on Iran, Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is on board with a new version of the bill set to be introduced before the Senate, according to a source familiar with the legislation.

The source said six other Democratic senators are expected to sign on when the bill is formally filed: Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan and Charles E. Schumer of New York.

They were seven of the Democrats who signed a letter sent earlier in the day to President Barack Obama providing for a March 24 deadline, after which they would support floor consideration of the enhanced sanctions, which would be conditional, taking effect if the current talks between the P5+1 nations and Iran fail to produce a desired result.

“We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline.  This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility,” the Democrats wrote. “We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability.”

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to offer a timeline for floor consideration of the Iran sanctions measure, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said it would be a “surprise” if the Senate debates Iran policy before the date identified by the Democrats.

The Banking Committee is scheduled to take up the legislation Thursday. The new Kirk-Menendez bill comes just one day after a different group of senators offered a resolution supporting imposing additional sanctions if the Iran talks fail. That group of Democratic caucus members, led by Sens. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Dianne Feinstein of California, is promoting a diplomatic outcome.

“For those who agree that the sanctions bill in the Banking Committee is detrimental, this resolution provides an option in support of diplomacy. The resolution states that if negotiations fail or if Iran violates any agreement, then it is appropriate for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Murphy said in a brief interview Tuesday he was encouraged by the letter from Menendez and company, and he hoped for additional supporters, perhaps from both sides of the aisle.

“This has always been about a difference in tactics, not a difference in policy. So that’s why, you know, Sen. Feinstein and I put out our resolution, and I think we’ll get more co-sponsors as time goes on. I mean, we wanted to make it clear that we are virtually unanimous in supporting new sanctions if and when the negotiations fall apart,” Murphy said. “The difference has only been about when we send the signal that we’re moving forward on the new sanctions — now or after the negotiations break up.”

Related:

Obama’s Big Win on Iran Sanctions

Lindsey Graham Proposes Iran ‘Alternative’

Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress of Iran

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:27 p.m.
Iran

January 20, 2015

Rand Paul’s Message: ‘Do No Harm’ In Foreign Affairs

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes his way through the basement of the Capitol before a vote on the Senate floor, December 12, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Paul will have his own response to the State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Possible 2016 contender Sen. Rand Paul says that the foreign policy potion of his own response to Tuesday’s State of the Union address will focus on an old adage from his medical career: “Do no harm.”

“I think one the biggest things about foreign policy is that you should think before you act, and that’s one of the themes that I’ll have tonight is: First, do no harm. As physicians, we’re taught first to do no harm, which means think through,” the Kentucky Republican said. “You have enormous power as a surgeon. Before you cut into someone, make sure you have the right diagnosis. Try not to make mistakes.”

Paul is issuing his own video response, separate from the official message to be delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

In an interview in his Washington office ahead of the speech by President Barack Obama, Paul used the potential for additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as an example where Congress should avoid doing such harm. Full story

January 16, 2015

Tony Blair Delivers ‘Churchillian’ Speech to Senate, House GOP

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew three standing ovations when he addressed the joint House-Senate Republican retreat Thursday with a speech that one lawmaker likened to the oratory of Winston Churchill.

Blair’s speech, which was closed to the public and the media, included a call for America to lead on the world stage rather than to try to be loved there, according to a person in attendance. Rep. Tom Cole said Blair focused on the importance of fighting against extremism around the world at an event said to be well attended by members and staffers alike. Full story

January 12, 2015

Power Takes Obama’s Iran Case to Kentucky

(Tom Fougerousse/University of Louisville)

Power is the first Cabinet member to appear with McConnell since he became majority leader. (Tom Fougerousse/University of Louisville)

America’s top diplomat at the United Nations took the Obama administration’s case against enhancing Iran sanctions to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home turf Monday — delivering remarks that sounded like a State of the Union prelude.

Ambassador Samantha Power reiterated the administration’s view that “increasing sanctions would dramatically undermine our efforts” to halt nuclear weapons development by the Iranians in talks, which have been extended through June.

“First, imposing new sanctions now will almost certainly end a negotiations process that has not only frozen the advance of Iran’s nuclear program, but that could lead us to an understanding that would give us confidence in its exclusively peaceful nature. If new sanctions were imposed, Iran would be able to blame the U.S. for sabotaging the negotiations and causing the collapse of the process, and we would lose the chance to peacefully resolve a major national security challenge,” Power said. “Second, … new sanctions will actually likely weaken the sanctions pressure on Iran, by undermining crucial international support for the existing multilateral sanctions on Iran.”

Power’s comments about Iran came when McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was just steps away. They were part of a wide-ranging foreign policy address sponsored by his namesake McConnell Center on the University of Louisville campus. The Senate majority leader has said bringing additional conditional sanctions against Iran to the Senate floor for a vote is among his early priorities in 2015.

Power became the first Cabinet member to make a public appearance with McConnell since his elevation to majority leader earlier in January.

“Amidst all of this apparent rancor and partisanship, you in the audience might be a bit surprised to see a member of President [Barack] Obama’s cabinet — and the ambassador to the United Nations, no less — down here in Kentucky at the invitation of the new Republican Senate majority leader,” Power said. “You might wonder whether I’m here to pick a fight or walk into an ambush.”

Much of the speech focused not on Capitol Hill partisan battles, but on areas where the two parties have found common ground, from the response to the outbreak of Ebola in Africa to U.S. efforts to support pro-democracy efforts in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

McConnell has long made the situation in Myanmar a priority, and Power praised his work with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on sanctions against the repressive military junta that contributed to the country opening up and moving in a pro-democratic direction. But, the progress has been at times tepid.

“That is the challenge we face today: ensuring that Burma builds on the areas in which it has made progress, and avoids backsliding. And we have to be prepared to adapt our strategy to the conditions we observe, including setbacks. We — and when I say we, I am confident Leader McConnell shares this view — we have to examine every tool in our toolkit and ask: How can we take steps that may contribute to empowering the Burmese people and helping the country move towards genuine democratic reform?” Power said. “Our tools include incentivizing continued progress, shining a bright light on the government’s shortcomings, and imposing targeted sanctions on individuals who stand in the way of change.”

In addition to discussing democratic development in Myanmar, Power acknowledged differences of opinion about the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba.

“Some of the embargo’s staunchest defenders are Democrats and Republicans with deep ties to the island — people whose families came to America fleeing the Castros’ repression. These are men and women who are completely dedicated to doing all they can to ensure that Cubans on the island get to enjoy true freedom. So it is important to acknowledge that while there may be disagreements on the best way to get there, we share a common goal of advancing the rights of the Cuban people,” Power said.

She reiterated the administration’s view that after decades of the embargo against Cuba failing to bring about the desired outcome, it was time to change the strategy.

“The changes President Obama announced take away the Castros’ most trusted alibi for abuse, helping empower the Cuban people to secure the greater freedoms they want and deserve,” she said. “The change in policy also denies repressive governments in the region the ability to continue cynically to use our Cuba policy to deflect attention from their own abuses, such as Ecuador’s crackdown on the press, or Venezuela’s imprisonment of key opposition leaders.”

Related:

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

December 27, 2014

Graham Says Iran Sanctions Vote Will Come in January (Video)

Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, on legislation that would restore "the long-standing interpretation of the 'Wire Act'" and would reverse the Justice Department's 2011 decision expand online gaming. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Graham: Iran will be a top priority in the new Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saturday that a vote on legislation providing for more stringent conditional sanctions against Iran would be among the first items of business for the 114th Congress.

The South Carolina Republican made his comments during a joint appearance Saturday in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead. In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed,” Graham said, according to an official transcript. “It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well. So we will be following your counsel and advice. Congress will pursue sanctions for the bigger.”

Full story

December 9, 2014

Watch: John Kerry Testifies on ISIS War

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the United States’ war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Secretary of State John Kerry will testify.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

November 24, 2014

Republicans Push for More Iran Sanctions as Talks are Extended

Ayotte, McCain and Graham (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ayotte, McCain and Graham likely to pursue tighter sanctions on Iran. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Monday’s seven-month extension of talks about the Iranian nuclear program make it very likely the Senate will vote on strengthening sanctions against Iran in the first part of 2015.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican who will be majority leader next year, signaled that just two days before Election Day.

“I think what we ought to do if we can’t get an acceptable agreement with the Iranians is tighten the sanctions, and in fact we had a bill in the Senate to do that, which the current majority leader wouldn’t allow a vote on,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky at the time. “Not to stop the talks, but to say at the end of the talks, if there’s no good outcome, then the Iranians would get tougher sanctions.”

Full story

November 12, 2014

New Senate Republican Majority Wants Say in Iran Nuclear Deal

Corker, R-Tenn., listens to other senators during the news conference on Ukraine on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Any nuclear deal with Iran needs to be approved by the Senate, Corker said. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are gearing up to try to force President Barack Obama to give Congress veto power over an agreement about nuclear weapons with Iran.

The expected chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee signaled Wednesday that getting a say in any such deal will be a priority of GOP senators when they take over next year.

“Nov. 24 is going to be the time frame which we’ll know more clearly whether there’s going to be an extension or something has actually been reached. But I would imagine that regardless … there will be a desire very quickly after the first of the year for Congress to weigh in on the topic in some form or fashion,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters. “Whether it’s ensuring, you know, that Congress has a vote in final outcome or some other way, my sense is that there’ll be a move pretty quickly to speak to that legislatively.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:32 p.m.
Iran, Policy, Syria

October 30, 2014

The Attack Ads Harry Reid Didn’t Want You to See

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harry Reid’s strategy of blocking amendments all year was intended with one clear objective in mind — protecting his majority.

Republicans have complained vociferously about the Senate majority leader shutting down amendments — but behind the scenes, the Nevada Democrat’s senators asked him to do so for a very simple reason: Nobody wants to give an opponent fodder for 30-second ads in a tough election year.

Reid’s strategy had a downside, because Democrats had fewer opportunities to show their independence from an unpopular president.

But aside from that attack, Republicans have been left mostly to mine earlier votes from, for instance, the 2013 budget resolution vote-a-rama — or for parts of the Affordable Care Act they voted for years ago.

Here are some of the subjects — and TV attack lines — Reid’s strategy sought to avoid: Full story

July 18, 2014

Mark Kirk Says Obama Iran Policy is Path to Nuclear War (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk said in a jarring video circulated late Friday that President Barack Obama’s Iran policy is leading to nuclear war.

The video, posted on Youtube and available through the Illinois Republican’s official website, features a background of a “60 Minutes”-style ticking clock and highlights news reports about the state of the negotiations between the international community and Iran on nuclear programs.

“The administration policy is the quickest policy that leads to war, nuclear war. That is a horrible fate to condemn American children to witness,” Kirk said in the video.

Full story

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