Secretary of State John Kerry refused to tell lawmakers Tuesday that the Obama administration would abide by existing laws on Iran sanctions if Congress were to successfully torpedo the agreement.
In a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman, D. Calif., pointedly asked Kerry if the administration would follow the current law if Congress were to find the two-thirds majority necessary to reject the plan.
“I can’t begin to answer that at this point without consulting with the president and determining what the circumstances are,” said Kerry, according to a report from National Review.
When Sherman followed up, Kerry said his previous response simply indicated that he would not engage in hypotheticals.
Rep. Ted Yoho, R. Fla., was alarmed by the exchange.
“I think Mr. Sherman was right on. To see the secretary of state skirting around this instead of backing up America and saying, ‘Absolutely, we are going to follow the rule of law. We are going to hold Iran’s feet to the fire,'” said Yoho.
The congressman says the president is clearly emboldened and has even reason to expect he can flout the law and get away with it.
“As has happened so may times in this administration, the president’s got a pen and he’s got a phone. He has audaciously talked about that,” said Yoho.
“Why would he not do that? We in the House have never held him accountable for any of that,” he added.
Yoho is also frustrated by Kerry’s contention to lawmakers and in the press that Congress must approve the deal to preserve America’s standing in the world.
“That’s a very cheap shot. Sitting on Foreign Affairs and having the ability to talk to dignitaries and ambassadors from all over the world, we’ve already lost our credibility in the world,” said Yoho. I’ve talked to people from a lot of different countries. The credibility of the United States is at the lowest point they’ve ever seen it. Our allies don’t know if they can trust us and our enemies don’t really fear or respect us.”
Tuesday’s hearing also focused on recently revealed side deals that the Obama administration did not reveal to Congress. Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton, R. Ark., and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R. Kansas, reported the deal gives the International Atomic Energy Agency latitude to negotiate with Iran for the right to inspect suspected nuclear facilities without Congress having the opportunity to review the concessions made by inspectors.
Yoho says the explanations from Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were less than satisfactory to him.
“When they were asked about that they first disputed them. Now they’re owning up that there are some side deals. [Rep. Ron] DeSantis asked if we were going to get the information. John Kerry said, ‘We’ll give you a briefing on it.’ I don’t want a briefing. I want the information that’s in the deal so that we can make an intelligent decision on whether or not this a bad deal,” said Yoho.
To be sure, Yoho is already convinced this is a terrible deal.
“I don’t need that information to tell me it’s a bad deal because with what I know now, it is a bad deal other than for Iran,” said Yoho, who says a country music song sums up this deal.
“It reminds me of that country song by Jerry Reed, ‘She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft).’ They get to export their oil. They get to export their gold. They’re paving a road to nuclear weapons. In economic development, they’re getting released of $100-$115 billion in sanctions, which equates to about $60-$70 billion that they get to use now. We get to import Persian rugs, dates and nuts,” said Yoho.
As bad as the terms of the deal look to Yoho, he says the most offensive part of the deal is that the United States considered the terrorism-sponsoring regime in Iran worthy of serious negotiations.
“Guess who you’re dealing with? You’re dealing with a country that, since 1979, has got a lot of American blood on their hands. If you look at all the soldiers that were killed or harmed in Afghanistan or Iraq, seventy percent of those came from IED’s. Ninety percent of those were manufactured by Iran,” said Yoho.
As the vote on the Iran draws closer, the congressman says lawmakers of all political persuasions would be wise to heed the words of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as commander-in-chief near the dawn of the nuclear age.
“President Eisenhower said back in the ’50s that if a country’s nuclear intentions are peaceful, they’re out in the open and everybody knows about it. If they’re in secrecy and done in the heat of the night and hidden, those are only done for producing weapons,” he said.