This Is Real: President Obama Agrees With Ted Cruz

The White House agrees with Cruz that Iran’s U.N. ambassador pick shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S., but Obama won’t be signing Cruz’s bill into law — for now.

US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. Cruz and others spoke about the upcoming winter Olympics in Sochi and Russia's human rights record.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
April 11, 2014, 9:23 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama and Sen. Ted Cruz agree on something.

That “something” is keep­ing Ham­id Aboutalebi, Ir­an’s pro­posed United Na­tions am­bas­sad­or, out of the United States. A bill pushed by the con­ser­vat­ive Texas Re­pub­lic­an, which passed the Sen­ate and House via voice vote this week, bars “known ter­ror­ists” who are serving as U.N. am­bas­sad­ors from en­ter­ing the U.S., and was in­ten­ded to deny Aboutalebi entry to the U.S.

The United States will not be is­su­ing a visa to Aboutalebi, White House Press Sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said Fri­day. But Obama won’t be sign­ing the Cruz bill in­to law, for now.

“We cer­tainly share the in­tent of the bill passed by Con­gress,” Car­ney said. “We are re­view­ing the le­gis­la­tion and will work to ad­dress any is­sues re­lated to its util­ity and its con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity.”

The con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Aboutalebi stems from his mem­ber­ship in the group that took over the U.S. Em­bassy in Tehran in 1979 and held the Amer­ic­an staff host­age for 444 days.

For his part, Aboutalebi has down­played his role in the host­age crisis, say­ing he wasn’t in­volved in the ini­tial host­age-tak­ing and served primar­ily as a trans­lat­or and ne­go­ti­at­or. And Ir­an has thus far stood by its pick of Aboutalebi, who has pre­vi­ously served as a European Uni­on am­bas­sad­or.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the Re­pub­lic­ans and the Demo­crats who worked with me to pass this le­gis­la­tion and I ap­pre­ci­ate the pres­id­ent do­ing the right thing and bar­ring this ac­know­ledged ter­ror­ist from com­ing in­to the coun­try,” Cruz said Fri­day on Fox News.

The bill passed the Sen­ate via voice vote this week, after the Sen­ate’s third-rank­ing Demo­crat, Sen. Chuck Schu­mer of New York, in­dic­ated his sup­port. Cruz’s meas­ure closely mir­rors a House bill from Rep. Doug Lam­born, R-Colo., that he in­tro­duced earli­er this month. Lam­born asked House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship this week to quickly place the Sen­ate-passed Cruz bill on the floor for a vote be­fore they re­cessed for a two-week break.

The bill passed the House by voice vote Thursday. “We must not leave for the East­er re­cess without send­ing a clear and uni­fied mes­sage that ter­ror­ists are not wel­come as dip­lo­mats in our coun­try,” Lam­born said in a state­ment.

If Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans in Wash­ing­ton will come to­geth­er around something, it’s pre­dict­able that it would be about Ir­an. Tak­ing a hawk­ish at­ti­tude to­ward Ir­an is a pop­u­lar po­s­i­tion on the Hill for Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats alike, who have pre­vi­ously come to­geth­er to pass sanc­tions against the Ir­a­ni­an re­gime.

But the tim­ing of the con­tro­versy over Aboutalebi could throw a wrench in­to already-com­plex in­ter­na­tion­al talks with Ir­an over its nuc­le­ar pro­gram, which re­star­ted this week.

Car­ney said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­cision to deny Aboutalebi a visa won’t af­fect those talks.

“We’ve com­mu­nic­ated with the Ir­a­ni­ans at a num­ber of levels and made clear our po­s­i­tion on this, and that in­cludes our po­s­i­tion that the se­lec­tion is not vi­able,” Car­ney ad­ded.

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