Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, called the move "highly problematic"
Corker told reporters he called Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to complain
In what could be a serious problem for White House, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday blasted an Obama administration decision to bring the Iran nuclear agreement for action in the United Nations Security Council next week before Congress weighs in on it.
The Security Council will formally approve the agreement Monday morning in an Iran resolution paving the route for the eventual lifting of some sanctions, a spokeswoman for Gerard van Bohemen, New Zealand’s United Nations representative, said Thursday night.
But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, called the move “highly problematic” and said it was “an affront to the American people” and to Congress.
“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a bill which 98 Senators and 400 Representatives supported and you signed, established a 60-day period for Congress to consider the nuclear agreement. We are deeply concerned that your administration plans to enable the United Nations Security Council to vote on the agreement before the United States Congress can do the same,” Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Corker told reporters he called Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to complain.
Cardin raised his concerns directly with Vice President Joe Biden, who was on the Hill selling the Iran deal in a closed-door session with Democrats on the committee.
“I think it is somewhat presumptuous to take it to the UN for a vote before the Congressional review is over,” Cardin told reporters after the meeting. “That’s why I think it would be better for them not to do it that way.”
Cardin has worked closely with the White House on the Iran issue. He acknowledged being caught off guard by the decision to move forward so quickly in the U.N. body. He suggested the White House may believe it lived up to the “spirit of the law.”
“Quite frankly, we didn’t focus on how they would implement the U.N. international aspects of this,” Cardin explained. “I think we sort of assumed we would have this 60-day period without that action. I think the administration said, ‘Look, we’ll take it to the U.N. but it can’t take effect until 90 days later.’ So they probably think they complied with the spirit of the 60-day review. It doesn’t take into consideration if we were to reject the agreement.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, another member of the committee, said he wasn’t troubled by the administration going to the U.N. now and said it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone because U.N. action was discussed when Congress passed the Iran review act. He explained the U.N. can move forward to relieve sanctions and other resolutions targeting Iran, but only Congress can vote to drop the crippling economic sanctions it imposed against the country.
“The congressional sanctions have had a major effect on their economy. Those are the ones they really want out from under,” Kaine said. “Congress is going to have to decide if that’s what they get.”
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the Security Council’s review “does not lessen the importance of Congress or its review of the (agreement).”
“We’ll remain in close consultation with Congress throughout the review period,” Schultz said. “And as we made clear, we will not begin implementation of the plan until after the congressional review period is over.”
CNN’s Richard Roth contributed to this report.