Tag Archives: Bob Menendez

Republicans uneasy over Iran nuke ‘deal,’ lawmakers demand say on any final agreement


The highly touted “framework” for an Iranian nuclear deal, announced Thursday following days of intense negotiations, is being met with mixed reviews on Capitol Hill — as Republicans voice skepticism and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reprise demands that Congress have a say.

President Obama, who pitched the framework as “historic,” said he would speak with House and Senate leaders — he already has spoken briefly with Speaker John Boehner, Fox News has learned. Obama, in the Rose Garden, said the issue is “bigger than politics” and warned that if Congress killed a deal without a reasonable alternative, the United States would be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. He called it a “good deal.”

But Boehner, within hours of the announcement, warned that the “parameters” represented an “alarming departure” from initial U.S. goals.

In a statement, Boehner said his “immediate concern is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief,” referring to a provision calling for U.S. and E.U. sanctions relief once inspectors verify Iran’s progress toward the nuclear-related steps of the deal.

“Congress must be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted,” Boehner said.

Obama’s warning to Congress and Republicans’ early reaction point to a tense few weeks ahead as Capitol Hill lawmakers weigh legislation — which has been on hold — demanding congressional review of a nuclear deal, and potentially another bill dealing with sanctions.

Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it is important to see the specific details of Thursday’s announcement and said America should remain “clear-eyed” regarding Iran.

“If a final agreement is reached, the American people, through their elected representatives, must have the opportunity to weigh in to ensure the deal truly can eliminate the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and hold the regime accountable,” he said in a written statement.

Corker and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., sponsored the bill allowing congressional review. A 60-vote threshold would be required before lawmakers could take action. Corker said his committee would take up that legislation on April 14, and said he’s “confident of a strong vote.”

In a conference call, senior administration officials reiterated concerns about legislation that could derail an Iran agreement but said they are “open to discussions” with Congress on what oversight role they could play. One official said Congress would eventually get a vote, regardless, on whether to lift sanctions.

Menendez, a Democrat who has publicly criticized the Obama administration’s handling of Iran, suggested the White House take its time before agreeing to anything. With the preliminary agreement announced Thursday, negotiators will now try to hammer out a final, comprehensive deal by a June 30 deadline.

“If diplomats can negotiate for two-years on this issue, then certainly Congress is entitled to a review period of an agreement that will fundamentally alter our relationship with Iran and the sanctions imposed by Congress,” Menendez said in a written statement. “The best outcome remains a good deal that ends Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program. That requires a strong, united, and bipartisan approach from the administration and Congress.”

Earlier Thursday, Menendez pleaded not guilty to 14 federal charges of corruption and bribery that some have called political payback for going against the administration.

Obama’s biggest allies, meanwhile, seemed to be giving his diplomatic team some space in the wake of Thursday’s announcement. California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer seemed cautiously optimistic following the Iran announcement:

“We don’t yet know the details of a final deal, but initial reports are promising, and if the U.S. had prematurely ended talks on nuclear issues in the past, we would never have had historic and critical international agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the New START Treaty.”

Boxer went on to praise the president and his administration for working “tirelessly to reach this point” and vowed to work to “ensure that Congress has the patience to support this diplomatic effort because the risks of walking away from the table are simply too high.”


U.S. legislation to resume aid to Cairo tied to Egyptian cooperation

WASHINGTON — Congress has approved the continuation of U.S. military aid to Egypt.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved legislation that would resume some $1.6 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt. The bill, which overwhelmingly passed the committee, linked U.S. aid to Egyptian cooperation with Washington.

This legislation reaffirms the enduring U.S. commitment to our partnership with the Egyptian government by authorizing continued assistance and endorsing the importance of ongoing cooperation,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Robert Menendez said.

The vote on Dec. 18 was seen as a rollback of the U.S. suspension of delivery of major combat platforms to Egypt four months earlier. In October, the administration of President Barack Obama said Egypt was being denied the F-16 multi-role fighter, AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, M1A1 main battle tank and the Harpoon anti-ship missile. In fiscal 2013, the administration withheld $560 million of the annual $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Cairo.

The legislation, titled Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013, provided President Barack Obama with a waiver that could resume arms deliveries to Egypt.

The Senate committee, members of which long called for a cutoff in aid, linked U.S. assistance to use of Egypt’s Suez Canal and air space as well as the peace treaty with Israel.

Senate Egypt bill could ease US aid after coup | The Back Channel


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to introduce an Egypt aid bill Wednesday that if passed could set a precedent for loosening current restrictions on US assistance to post-coup countries, Congressional sources tell Al-Monitor.

Sen. Robert Menendez  (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to introduce the bill, called the Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013, at a SFRC business meeting or Wednesday.  The bill is listed as the first item on the published agenda  for the committee meeting.

A senior US administration official, speaking not for attribution Tuesday, said the bill is expected to pass, but it isn’t clear that Menendez has a vehicle to bring it to the floor before the end of the week, after which Congress is expected to go on break. The real test will be the continuing resolution or the omnibus in early January, the official said.

The bill, while geared to Egypt, could have wider implications for US defense/security and economic assistance to post coup countries universally, one Congressional staffer, speaking not for attribution, said. If passed, it would virtually eliminate the restrictions of Section 7008, which currently prevents aid to post coup countries, by offering a framework for a waiver, which could be renewed. The Congressional staffer suggested the Obama White House had been closely involved in drafting the text of the legislation with the SFRC.

“We are continuing to work with the Congress to ensure we obtain the funding and authorities necessary to provide assistance for Egypt, consistent with the approach we outlined earlier this year,” Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, told Al-Monitor Wednesday.

A spokesman for the SFRC majority staff contacted by Al-Monitor Tuesday evening said he may not be able to get guidance on the matter before Wednesday.  A spokesman for ranking SFRC Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

The proposed bill would provide “the administration a legislative roadmap forward for U.S. assistance to continue to Egypt despite current legal restrictions on aid to countries where a military coup d’état has taken place,” a summary of the draft bill provided to Al-Monitor states.

“Though a number of requirements for continuing assistance under the waiver are specified, the bill removes standing legislative restrictions on U.S. assistance in cases of military coups and sets a potentially dangerous precedent for ad-hoc legislative waivers to be obtained by the administration in the future, should it desire,” the summary continues.

Under the proposed legislation, the “Secretary of States could waive such an aid suspension for 180 days after consultation and upon providing Congress a detailed justification and report which certifies ‘that providing such assistance is in the vital national security interests of the United States’ and that the government “is committed to restoring democratic governance and due process of law, and is taking demonstrable steps toward holding free and fair elections in a reasonable time frame,’” the summary states. “The waiver could be extended by additional 180-day periods following the same process.”

Senate Egypt bill could ease US aid after coup | The Back Channel.