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March 28, 2015

Posts in "Iran"

March 27, 2015

What Senators Read About During Vote-a-Rama: Iran Deal

One of Iran’s most notable former diplomats, the ex-spokesman for the nation’s nuclear negotiation team, wrote the most popular book spotted on the Senate floor during the annual vote-a-rama. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 12:50 a.m.
Budget, Iran

March 26, 2015

Deal on Kirk’s Iran Amendment Leads to Unanimous Vote

Mark Kirk Bowe Bergdahl Taliban video

Kirk (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As evening approached in the Senate’s budget vote-a-rama, lawmakers found some common ground on Iran. A 100-0 vote followed.

Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., and Banking Committee ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio ultimately teamed up on an amendment designed to make it easier to punish the Iranian regime with revived and new sanctions in the event the president can’t certify Iran is complying with any agreement.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 6:19 p.m.
Budget, Iran

March 24, 2015

Kirk Blasts ‘Ayatollah Stole My Homework’ Excuse on Iran Talks, Plots Budget Amendment

Mark Kirk Bowe Bergdahl Taliban video

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk said Tuesday he would introduce an amendment to the budget resolution recommending new sanctions on Iran if no nuclear deal is reached.

“It basically recommends a new round of sanctions,” the Illinois Republican told reporters, noting that Democrats had asked to wait until today’s date, March 24, to hold a floor vote on a sanctions bill he and Sen. Robert Menendez sponsored.

Kirk scoffed at the White House’s plea for more time, saying it amounted to “a kind of a version of ‘the Ayatollah stole my homework.'”

Full story

By Rachel Oswald and Niels Lesniewski Posted at 7:04 p.m.

March 19, 2015

Cruz Launching Sanctions Missile Amid Rumors of Iran Deal

Ted Cruz

Cruz is introducing his own Iran sanctions proposal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Just days before a deadline for an update on a potential announcement of a nuclear agreement with Iran, one Republican senator likely to run for president is renewing a sanctions push.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is poised to introduce an updated version of legislation Thursday that would revive all sanctions previously loosened by the Obama administration, as well as expand petrochemical sanctions. Companion legislation is expected to be filed in the House of Representatives.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:44 p.m.
2016, Iran, Ted Cruz

March 10, 2015

‘Good Job, Tom': Fellow Freshmen Republicans Commend Cotton

 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cotton won a subcommittee gavel on the Senate Armed Services Committee shortly after he was sworn into office. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As an unapologetic neoconservative hawk, it perhaps came as no surprise to Senate Republicans last week when Arkansas freshman Tom Cotton started circulating his five-paragraph missive to Iran’s leadership.

“We’re all aligned that we do not want a nuclear Iran,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who confirmed to CQ Roll Call that he was the first of the 46 Republicans who joined Cotton on the letter. “That’s what this is all about. I applaud his leadership in offering the letter — but we’re all aligned.”

All 11 of Cotton’s fellow Republican freshmen in the Senate signed onto the letter, including fellow military veterans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. Like Cotton, military service played a major role in each of their campaigns.

Fellow freshman Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., praised Cotton’s “leadership and courage,” when asked about his decision to sign. “I think that we’re getting a discussion going that’s very important and I think that the American people are interested in, too. So, [I] fully support him — that’s why I signed onto the letter.”

Another rookie to the chamber, Republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, capped his thoughts on the letter with: “So, good job, Tom.” Cassidy, who served with Cotton in the House prior to winning a Senate seat, told CQ Roll Call that the two have a good relationship, but shied away from the suggestion that his colleague stands out as a leader in the freshman class.

“No, I think that everybody has their area of interest … I mean, it’s nothing against [Cotton],” Cassidy said. “Everybody has their area, right? What is your committee? What is your natural interest? He comes from being a war veteran, and so he’s of course naturally interested in the Middle East, so I think it’s natural for him to take an interest in this.”

In a noteworthy move, Cotton was appointed chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee at the start of the 114th Congress. He made waves in January with a speech delivered at the Heritage Foundation blasting the White House’s attempts to negotiate with Iran. The Harvard-educated hawk, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has also proposed curtailing the president’s authority to waive new sanctions against Iran.

“I think his experience as a veteran is a great asset to the United States Senate and to our country,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who also emphasized that Republicans backing the bill are all aligned on Cotton’s message.

The GOP senators who didn’t sign have been clear about where they diverged from Cotton.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine expressed worries about the message that Cotton penned. For one, there were some “technical glitches with the letter,” Collins said. “We vote whether or not to approve or reject a resolution of ratification.”

Another was the tone, which Democrats characterized as gratuitous and brazen. Collins said it was “different than I would have used.” But her chief concern was that the letter seemed to undermine the Senate’s role in giving or withholding consent to the president at this critical stage of the negotiations.

“The best way for me to state my position on Iran was to support [Sen. Bob] Corker’s proposal to make sure that Congress approves any deal President Obama makes with Iran,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “I believe all of us in the Republican caucus support that, and a growing number of Democrats, too. So, I think what unites us on the Republican side is our feeling that Congress ought to have a say, and I didn’t see a need to say more than that.”

Many on the left have balked at the letter, bashing it as over the top. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called it “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere” and said it “ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President.” Obama accused Republicans of making “common cause” with Iranian hardliners, while his spokesman talked of a “rush to war” by the GOP.

But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, was full of praise Tuesday.

“He clearly took the initiative on that, yes,” Cornyn said, when asked if he was impressed with Cotton’s leadership. “I think, given his background, he’s a great new member … of the Armed Services Committee.”


Democrats Blast Cotton, GOP Over Open Letter to Iran

Senate Schedule Changed After Iran Vote Delay

7 Democrats Said to Back New Iran Sanctions Bill

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.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 8:53 p.m.
Iran, Republicans

March 9, 2015

Republicans Not Rushing to Criticize Menendez

Kirk says reports of indictment could be "politically motivated" leak by the Justice Department. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Kirk says reports of indictment could be a “politically motivated” leak by the Justice Department. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark S. Kirk became the latest Republican to suggest reports of corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez are the result of “politically motivated” leaks by the Justice Department.

Echoing speculation from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kirk told reporters Monday night that timing of the news about a pending indictment for the New Jersey Democrat could be related to efforts by Menendez to rally support within his party for an Iran sanctions bill.

Full story

Democrats Blast Cotton, GOP Over Open Letter to Iran (Video)

With Sen. Tom Cotton presiding over the Senate, the chamber’s Democratic leaders lambasted the open letter the Arkansas Republican spearheaded with 46 other Republicans to the leadership of Iran.

In the letter, the Republican senators told the Iranian leaders that any agreement about the country’s nuclear program reached with the United States and the other negotiating partners might well not last beyond President Barack Obama’s time in the White House, citing the separation of powers. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:14 p.m.
Iran, Policy

Senate Schedule Changed After Iran Vote Delay


The Senate schedule this week had a late change. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With the House out of town this week, the Senate will be the focal point on Capitol Hill, and there’s no shortage of activity ahead.

In a sign of how the Senate operates, the schedule has already changed. Full story

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.”


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

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

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

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

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