Cantor Pushing for Bill to Define Iran Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, listens to a speaker during a press conference following a Republican Conference meeting on February 5, 2013 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
Dec. 3, 2013, 6:35 a.m.

House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor is at­tempt­ing to or­gan­ize a bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion to draft a bill that would nar­rowly define what is, and is not, ac­cept­able in any fi­nal nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an, Na­tion­al Journ­al has learned.

Can­tor, the No. 2 House Re­pub­lic­an and the highest-rank­ing Jew­ish mem­ber of Con­gress, in­formed House Re­pub­lic­ans of his plan at Tues­day morn­ing’s con­fer­ence meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to sources in the room.

“I for one am really up­set with that in­ter­im deal,” Can­tor said, ac­cord­ing to those who were there, adding: “We can go ahead and cri­ti­cize it, but “¦ we should be fo­cused on what that fi­nal deal looks like.”

Can­tor told his GOP col­leagues that he’s work­ing with House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Royce, R-Cal­if., to find law­makers in both parties to sup­port le­gis­la­tion that would “speak volumes” about con­gres­sion­al ex­pect­a­tions for an agree­ment.

Re­pub­lic­an aides say Can­tor’s ef­fort rep­res­ents the be­gin­ning of what they pre­dict will be a bi­par­tis­an push to “put in writ­ing” ex­actly what Con­gress ex­pects in any fi­nal deal on Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram. Spe­cific­ally, one seni­or Re­pub­lic­an aide said, Can­tor’s pref­er­ence is for a fi­nal deal that in­cludes a total pro­hib­i­tion on en­rich­ment.

Can­tor’s of­fice con­firmed his de­sire to pur­sue Ir­an le­gis­la­tion but would not elab­or­ate on de­tails. “The lead­er does not be­lieve the in­ter­im agree­ment with Ir­an was in our na­tion’s best in­terests, and he will work with fel­low mem­bers, Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat, to de­term­ine that any fi­nal deal defin­it­ively ad­dresses con­gres­sion­al con­cerns,” Can­tor spokes­man Rory Cooper said.

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 House, which already passed its new round of Ir­an sanc­tions this sum­mer, was ini­tially thought to have little re­course in re­sponse to the Ir­an deal. (It’s un­clear wheth­er the Sen­ate, un­der im­mense pres­sure from the White House not to ap­prove new sanc­tions, will join the House in passing them.)

But neg­at­ive re­sponse to the Ir­an deal from both parties and both cham­bers, Re­pub­lic­an aides say, showed that law­makers are eager to push back against the White House.

With an­oth­er round of sanc­tions on hold, and Sen­ate Demo­crats wary of up­sta­ging Pres­id­ent Obama, Can­tor’s push to define any fi­nal Ir­an agree­ment could be­come the most real­ist­ic vehicle.

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