Iran Deal Turns Up Heat on Congress 07/29 06:22
The Iran nuclear deal has supercharged congressional lobbying, with
President Barack Obama securing the support of a prominent Jewish Democrat and
pro-Israel groups pressuring lawmakers in an all-out, big-money drive.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Iran nuclear deal has supercharged congressional
lobbying, with President Barack Obama securing the support of a prominent
Jewish Democrat and pro-Israel groups pressuring lawmakers in an all-out,
Obama, his Cabinet and other allies are making the case that the deal, which
calls on Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars
in sanctions relief, is the best possible way to prevent Tehran from developing
a nuclear weapon.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen.
Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to
testify on Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee along with
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs and
ambassador to NATO, will meet with House Democrats at the invitation of
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is leading the effort to round up
Democratic support for the deal. House Democrats also were scheduled to meet
with Obama at the White House later in the day.
"I believe that Israel, the region, and the world are far more secure if
Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon," longtime Rep. Sander
Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement that referenced his Jewish faith.
On the other side is the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
which is spending millions of dollars on ads to convince lawmakers that Iran
can't be trusted and the deal should be scuttled. Its members were personally
pressing the argument in meetings on Capitol Hill.
"We flew in this morning from Miami," Stephen Fiske, one of hundreds of
AIPAC activists in Washington this week, said as he headed toward a lawmaker's
office. "We have a few meetings today and we have 13 tomorrow."
Lawmakers from Fiske's home state, Florida, along with the New York
delegation, are considered among the top lobbying targets in Congress,
according to interviews with lawmakers, their aides and activists.
Vote counters are especially focused on members such as Reps. Debbie
Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who have not
announced how they'll vote. Also undeclared is the House's chief Democratic
vote counter, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement, with a
vote expected in September. If the Republican-controlled Congress passes a
resolution of disapproval for the deal, Obama has said he will veto it. The
administration is hoping to secure the backing of Democrats to sustain the veto.
Tension rose Tuesday during a packed hearing of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee. Three of Obama's Cabinet members --- Kerry, Moniz and Treasury
Secretary Jacob Lew --- fielded pointed questions from wary representatives.
As the hearing entered its third hour, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., told the
trio that the deal would embolden Iran, which is already involved in activities
that destabilize the region.
"Well, we're going to give the crocodile, or the shark, a few more teeth and
let's just see if it does something different," said Perry, who thinks the
administration needs to negotiate a better deal. He went on, asking Kerry
whether he cared about what the American people, through their congressional
representatives, thought about the agreement.
Kerry lashed back: "Congressman, I don't need any lessons from you about who
I represent. I've represented and fought for our country since I was out of
college. ... Don't give me any lessons about that, OK? Now, let me just make it
crystal clear to you. This is America's interest. ... Now, we believe that Iran
was marching towards a weapon or the capacity to have a weapon, and we've
rolled that back, congressman."
Kerry warned the committee members against nixing the deal, insisting that
it includes strict inspections and other safeguards to deter Tehran from
"Iran has cheated on every agreement they've signed," said California GOP
Rep. Ed Royce, the panel's chairman.
Kerry was asked what would prevent Iran from temporarily adhering to the
agreement, then taking the money from the sanctions relief and rushing to build
an atomic bomb. If Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon covertly, the
international community will know, Kerry told the panel.
"The red flags that would go off --- the bells and whistles that would start
chiming --- as a result of any movement away from what they have to do" under
the agreement, Kerry said.