Today, there is no greater threat to U.S. national security than the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Led by theocratic zealots who have pledged to “annihilate Israel” and who regularly lead chants of “Death to America,” an Iran with nuclear weapons poses an unacceptably high risk of murdering millions of Americans or millions of our allies.
For that reason, the top priority for the Senate should be to stop a bad Iran deal.
The Senate is now considering the Iran Nuclear Review Agreement Act (Corker-Cardin), which provides that any Iran deal must be submitted to Congress. This legislation started out with good intentions, and I supported moving it forward in committee. Indeed, I support anything that slows down the Obama administration’s headlong rush into finalizing an Iran deal that jeopardizes U.S. national security.
On the floor of the Senate, however, I intend to press vigorously for a critical amendment to this legislation. At the end of the debate, if this bill is not strengthened, I will have a great deal of difficulty supporting it.
Right now, the President has statutory authority to relax some Iran sanctions, and he has the constitutional authority to try to negotiate with foreign nations any deal he desires. Yet we must remember that in order for any foreign deal to become binding U.S. law, there are two and only two paths under our Constitution: First, he can submit his proposal as a treaty to the Senate, which requires 67 votes for ratification. Or second, he can submit it as legislation, get a majority vote in both Houses of Congress, and then sign it into law.
President Obama chafes at these constitutional requirements. The current Iran deal is so bad on the merits that he knows that it cannot meet either threshold. Hence, the Administration has suggested it wants to circumvent Congress, perhaps by trying to go the United Nations for ratification. But the UN, likewise, lacks the authority to create binding U.S. law. If it is not codified in a treaty or a statute, a UN resolution cannot bind the next President.
So what does Corker-Cardin do? It requires the President to submit an Iran deal to Congress, and then it provides that Congress can pass a “resolution of disapproval” to kill the deal. Any such resolution would be subject to a possible Democratic filibuster, which would take 60 votes to overcome. And, even if both Houses were to pass a resolution of disapproval, President Obama could veto it, which would then require two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to override.
If those super-majorities cannot be mustered, the President’s bad Iran deal would go into effect.
Thus, Corker-Cardin motion of disapproval reverses the ordinary presumptions. Instead of the President needing 67 Senate votes to ratify the Iran deal, it would now require 67 votes to stop an Iran deal.
This makes no sense. Why is the current legislation so weak? Because the price of getting support from Democratic senators has been to water down the legislation to the point where it is almost entirely meaningless.
As written, the legislation would do two things. First, it would provide Democratic senators with a show vote to say they were tough on Iran (before tacitly approving it). Second, it would virtually ensure that President Obama’s bad Iran deal—which endangers the lives of millions of Americans—stands.
President Obama’s proposed deal makes military conflict with Iran a virtual certainty. Under the terms that have been publicly announced, Iran will keep its nuclear centrifuges, will keep its enriched uranium, and will keep developing its ICBM program (which exists for the sole purpose of carrying a nuclear weapon to America). Under the terms of the deal, Iran will receive billions of dollars — which it will surely use to keep developing nuclear weapons. And, because Iran will remain the leading state sponsor of terrorism (the deal does nothing to change that), those billions of dollars will also be funneled directly to Hezbollah and Hamas and radical Islamic terrorists across the world.
Along with Sen. Pat Toomey, I have introduced an amendment to switch the presumption of power back where it belongs: to Congress.
If the President cannot secure either a majority in both Houses, no sanctions relief should be implemented.
Without this amendment, Corker-Cardin will likely do more harm than good—simply providing political cover for a bad Iran deal (which is why the Obama administration is now supportive of the legislation).
President Obama is fond of posing a false dichotomy: either you support his current Iran deal, or you want war. But, as Israel‘s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rightly observed, “a bad deal is worse than no deal.” As it stands, Corker-Cardin is a bad deal that paves the way for the President’s worse deal with Iran.
In January 2017, we will have a new President. He or she will likely encounter an Iran on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. If President Obama has implemented his bad deal—if he has unraveled the international consensus in favor of strict sanctions on Iran—then sanctions will in all likelihood be impossible to re-impose. Doing so would take months or years (if at all), probably too far out to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Thus, the next president would be left with two choices: acquiesce to Iran having nuclear weapons (which it could then use to murder Americans and our allies), or launch a targeted military attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity.
The Obama deal makes those the only two realistic options in 2017. That’s why the Senate should stop it. Peace through strength is the only way both to avoid war and to prevent a nuclear Iran.
And that is why we need Iran sanctions legislation with teeth.
The article originally appeared in The Washington Times