UN Iran Vote Infuriates US Lawmakers

UN Iran Vote Infuriates US LawmakersUN Iran Vote Infuriates US Lawmakers

The Obama administration played defense on Monday after lawmakers in both parties criticized its decision to let the United Nations — not Congress — have the first say on the Iran nuclear deal.

Republicans pounced on the decision following the UN Security Council's 15-0 vote, arguing the White House was giving short shrift to congressional assent in a rush to build international support for the agreement, the Hill reported.

The White House appeared to hope that the UN vote would build pressure on Congress to back the deal, but the strategy risked backfiring, with some Democrats scolding the administration for the decision.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, joined Ed Royce, the Republican panel chairman, in a statement saying they were "disappointed" that the UN Security Council 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.

Administration officials fought back, countering that lawmakers still have two months to make up their minds.

"No ability of Congress has been impinged on," Secretary of State John Kerry insisted on Monday.

  Between Rock and Hard Place

Kerry said the administration was between a rock and a hard place. Either the White House risked getting flak at home, he said, or Iran and the other negotiating nations would balk at the idea of holding their landmark international agreement hostage to one country's legislature.

"Frankly, some of these other countries were quite resistant to the idea, as sovereign nations, that they were subject to the United States Congress," Kerry 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."

Most of the criticism on Monday came from Republicans eager to criticize the administration's handling of the Iranian issue.

Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, called the UN action "an affront to the American people" and accused the White House of "jamming this deal through" without proper congressional scrutiny.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for the White House, used the phrase "capitulation Monday," pointing to both the Iran vote and the opening of Cuba's Embassy in Washington.

"This is a bad start for a bad deal," said Speaker John Boehner.

Monday morning's UN vote came just hours after the State Department formally sent the Iran deal to Congress to be reviewed.

"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 law giving Congress 60 days to review and decide whether or not to approve the deal.

Congress can vote to block the deal in September, but Republicans would have to win over at least 13 Democrats in the Senate — and dozens in the House — to override a promised presidential veto.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker — who last week sent a letter along with the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin, asking President Obama to postpone the UN vote — also criticized Monday's action.

"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," he 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."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, also said the United Nations vote should have been delayed.