Bipartisan House and Senate letters sent to President Barack Obama in recent days are being read as a reassertion of Congressional prerogatives in the context of negotiations with Iran, after weeks in which the White House was widely perceived to have largely marginalized skeptics on the Hill via among other things a broadly criticized and publicly disavowed campaign branding advocates of financial pressure on Tehran as warmongers.
Politico reported on Sunday that six Senators – Democrats Chuck Schumer (NY), Robert Menendez (NJ), and Chris Coons (DE) and Republicans Mark Kirk (IL), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Kelly Ayotte (NH) – had sent the President a letter insisting that Congress ‘have an outsize role to play in Iran no matter the result of ongoing nuclear talks.’
Congress will need “to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions” against Iran if global negotiations to scale back the country’s nuclear program fail, the senators said. And if Iran does agree to a permanent deal, the lawmakers said it will be up to them to offer long-term economic relief to Iran.
“We need to work together now to prepare for either eventuality,” the senators said. “Iran must clearly understand the consequences of failing to reach an acceptable final agreement. We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products.”
On Monday the Washington Free Beacon conveyed the details of a different letter sent by top members of the House of Representatives – Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) – outlining the contours of an acceptable deal.
“We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon,” the Cantor-Hoyer letter said, according to a copy obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
A recent poll conducted for The Israel Project by The Mellman Group found that lopsided majorities of Americans disapprove of the Obama administration’s current approach toward negotiating with Iran (66%-30%), want Congress to vet the results of comprehensive negotiations (69%-25%), and want pressure kept up on Iran in the meantime.