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After the Iran Deal: Cardin, Bennet Look to Pass New Enforcement Bill

Cardin and Bennet are proposing a bill aimed at strengthening the Iran deal. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Cardin and Bennet are proposing a bill aimed at strengthening the Iran deal. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While Democratic Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Michael Bennet announced opposite positions on the Iran deal Friday, they were united in their support for legislation they’ll introduce to strengthen it.  

Cardin, ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, announced his opposition to the deal in an op-ed , while Bennet backed the deal in a statement to The Denver Post. But the deal itself is already a fait accompli given that the White House has already lined up enough support to sustain a veto of a disapproval resolution, and that has Cardin of Maryland and Bennet of Colorado looking ahead.  

Cardin said the new legislation he’s writing that would include expedited consideration of sanctions against Iran if the country is found committing acts of terrorism against the U.S., or if its terrorist-supporting activity increases. (Bennet told The Denver Post he backs Cardin’s effort.) Cardin was just the third Senate Democrat to oppose the Iran deal, along with Charles E. Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  

The current Foreign Relations Chairman, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., did not have an immediate reaction to the Cardin proposal, but he applauded Cardin’s opposition to the Iran deal, which he also opposes.  

“I greatly appreciate the tremendous time and energy he has put into ensuring Congress has a role in considering this hugely consequential agreement, the way he worked with us in setting up extensive hearings to evaluate it, and know that the decision he announced today was very difficult for him but based on tremendous due diligence and careful consideration,” Corker said in a statement. “The fact that the two Democrats who have spent the most time in understanding the details and impact of this deal do not support it speaks volumes.”  

Corker was referring to Cardin and Menendez.  

From Cardin’s op-ed:

Regardless of whether Congress rejects the JCPOA, discomfort with aspects of the agreement remains across the ideological spectrum. That is why I will introduce legislation backed by supporters and opponents of the deal designed to strengthen the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and U.S. regional security strategy. This would be consistent with the administration’s interpretation of the agreement and complement its regional security commitments.

The legislation includes the following:

●It sets as U.S. policy that Iran will never be permitted to obtain a nuclear weapon and that all options remain on the table, including military options.

●It clarifies that no sanctions relief will be provided to Iran until it meets its commitments related to resolving the issue of possible military dimensions. It makes clear that nothing in the JCPOA limits Congress’s ability to pass new sanctions legislation addressing legitimate foreign policy purposes, such as terrorism, human rights and ballistic missile activities. And it underscores that current sanctions addressing ballistic missile proliferation and terrorism remain in place.

●It calls for expedited consideration in Congress of new sanctions should there be evidence that Iran has committed an act of terrorism against the United States or substantially increased its terrorist activities. It compels the executive branch to report on how Iran is using the funds obtained from sanctions relief, which will assist the United States in working to counter Iran’s support for terrorism in the region. And it authorizes a security assistance package for Israel.

●Finally, it demands a robust and comprehensive whole-of-government strategy for how we will collaborate with allies and partners in the region to confront Iran’s network of conventional, ballistic missile and terrorist threats, in addition to its nuclear ambitions.

Correction: An earlier posting stated incorrectly which two Democrats Corker was speaking of.


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