Hoyer Delays Cantor Resolution on Iran

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) (R) takes questions as other congressional members, including Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) (3rd L), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) (2nd R) look on during a news conference November 16, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The news conference was to call on the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Supercommittee, 'to go big on deficit reduction.'
National Journal
Stacy Kaper and Tim Alberta
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Stacy Kaper Tim Alberta
Dec. 12, 2013, 9 a.m.

A bi­par­tis­an group of power­ful House mem­bers agreed Wed­nes­day to a res­ol­u­tion de­fin­ing con­gres­sion­al ex­pect­a­tions for a fi­nal nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an, only to have a lead­ing Demo­crat back out Thursday morn­ing, Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily has learned.

The lan­guage was agreed to Wed­nes­day night, ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sion­al aides, after a week’s worth of meet­ings between top lead­ers. The talks, ini­ti­ated by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, were head­lined by Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er, For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Royce, and rank­ing Demo­crat Eli­ot En­gel.

The res­ol­u­tion was set to be in­tro­duced on the House floor Thursday, sources said, but Hoy­er in­sisted that his col­leagues hold off. It’s un­clear wheth­er Hoy­er wants to delay the res­ol­u­tion’s in­tro­duc­tion in­def­in­itely, or just un­til law­makers re­turn from the hol­i­day re­cess in early Janu­ary.

“Mr. Hoy­er be­lieves Con­gress has the right to ex­press its views on what should be in­cluded in a fi­nal agree­ment, but that the tim­ing was not right to move for­ward this week,” said Stephanie Young, Hoy­er’s spokes­wo­man.

The res­ol­u­tion harshly ad­mon­ishes Ir­an for vi­ol­at­ing in­ter­na­tion­al agree­ments on urani­um en­rich­ment and bal­list­ic-mis­sile de­vel­op­ment, and for con­tinu­ing pro­duc­tion of ma­ter­i­als that could pro­duce nuc­le­ar weapons. It con­demns Ir­an for spon­sor­ing ter­ror­ism and hu­man-rights ab­uses.

The res­ol­u­tion ex­pressly states that sanc­tions brought Ir­an to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table, and that Con­gress sup­ports dip­lo­mat­ic ne­go­ti­ations but that all op­tions need to re­main on the table.

Ac­cord­ing to aides with know­ledge of the talks, Hoy­er re­ques­ted cer­tain changes to the lan­guage of the res­ol­u­tion on Wed­nes­day night. When they were agreed to, all four mem­bers signed off, and Hoy­er asked that the an­nounce­ment not be made un­til Thursday morn­ing. Then, on Thursday morn­ing, Hoy­er “backed off” the agree­ment, an aide said.

The group, which has em­phas­ized strong bi­par­tis­an con­sensus on this is­sue, de­cided to hold off on in­tro­du­cing the res­ol­u­tion without Hoy­er.

“I’ve al­ways said that I think it’s im­port­ant for for­eign policy to be bi­par­tis­an whenev­er pos­sible,” En­gel had said on Wed­nes­day night. He said then that while the group was “close” to an agree­ment, noth­ing would be in­tro­duced un­til all mem­bers in­volved were sat­is­fied with the product.

Can­tor spokes­man Rory Cooper said, “The lead­er is dis­ap­poin­ted we could not move ahead with the agreed-on res­ol­u­tion this week, but he will con­tin­ue to work with Whip Hoy­er, Chair­man Royce, and Con­gress­man En­gel to get it to the floor as soon as pos­sible.”

The ini­tial Ir­an agree­ment, reached late last month, softened some eco­nom­ic sanc­tions in ex­change for Ir­an freez­ing parts of its nuc­le­ar pro­gram. But that deal, de­signed to cre­ate six months of ne­go­ti­at­ing space to reach a broad­er agree­ment, pro­voked a flurry of bi­par­tis­an cri­ti­cism on Cap­it­ol Hill.

The res­ol­u­tion agreed to on Wed­nes­day calls for im­pos­ing ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions on Ir­an if it vi­ol­ates the terms of the in­ter­im deal.

Can­tor first in­formed his Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues last week that he and Royce were look­ing for Demo­crats who could work with them to craft lan­guage that would “speak volumes” about con­gres­sion­al ex­pect­a­tions for an agree­ment.

Sig­ni­fic­antly, the res­ol­u­tion would go much fur­ther than the in­ter­im agree­ment with Ir­an in sev­er­al ways.

On the sub­ject of en­rich­ment, the res­ol­u­tion states that it is “the policy of the United States that no na­tion, in­clud­ing Ir­an, has an in­her­ent right to en­rich urani­um.”

The res­ol­u­tion calls for “dis­man­tle­ment of Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar in­fra­struc­ture … such that Ir­an is pre­ven­ted from pur­su­ing both the urani­um and plutoni­um path­ways to a nuc­le­ar weapon.”

The res­ol­u­tion notes that the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency has re­por­ted that Ir­an has con­tin­ued to en­rich urani­um as re­cently as Novem­ber, in vi­ol­a­tion of U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tions.

The lan­guage also lays out the threat posed by Ir­an, stat­ing that it has ap­prox­im­ately “19,000 cent­ri­fuges, which have the ca­pa­city to en­rich urani­um in a mat­ter of weeks to levels that would provide suf­fi­cient fis­sile ma­ter­i­al for a nuc­le­ar ex­plos­ive device.”

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