Newspaper article Roll Call

New Top Dem on Foreign Relations Offers Cautious Support for Iran Bill

Newspaper article Roll Call

New Top Dem on Foreign Relations Offers Cautious Support for Iran Bill

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New Top Dem on Foreign Relations Offers Cautious Support for Iran Bill

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* By Rachel Oswald and Aisha Chowdhry

* Roll Call Staff

* April 2, 2015, 2:52 p.m.

The new top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday offered guarded support for high-profile legislation on Iran that is scheduled to be voted on shortly after Congress returns from its recess.

Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday announced that Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., would succeed Sen. Robert Menendez, D- N.J., as ranking member on Foreign Relations. The day before, the New Jersey lawmaker announced he would temporarily give up his leadership position on the panel after he was indicted on federal corruption charges.

Asked for his thoughts on becoming the new ranking Democrat, Cardin told CQ Roll Call, "It's important that we work as hard as possible for unity to give this country the strongest possible position in foreign policy."

Cardin in the interview said he "always supported a congressional review" of the nuclear deal now being announced by negotiators in Switzerland.

Asked if he backed moving forward with the previously scheduled April 14 committee markup of legislation (S 625) to forbid the White House from lifting congressionally imposed sanctions without lawmakers' approval, Cardin, the junior senator from Maryland, said, "Depends on what we mark up. We're looking at the legislation and we're listening to the administration's concerns.

"I think that the administration will never agree that Congress should have a role. I think Congress should have a role. . . . Therefore there is going to be a philosophical difference, but we have to make sure whatever we do is constructive for the president in negotiating."

Cardin, who has spent close to half a century in elected office, said the exact language of the framework deal with Iran would be important in influencing his position. He said he is looking at three things in particular: the amount of time it would take Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon if it decided to break out of the deal; verification requirements that Tehran is honoring the accord; and having the ability to automatically "snap back" international and domestic sanctions if Iran is determined to be in breach of the agreement. …

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