The debate over the appropriate role for Congress in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran continues as the month-end deadline for a so-called "framework agreement" approaches. A bipartisan group of senate co-sponsors led by Senator Corker announced that on or shortly after March 24th they intend to begin deliberations over a bill (S. 615), which would require that any agreement t reached be submitted for review by the Senate, and which would also provide for a Senate vote on whether to approve the agreement. The president has threatened to veto that bill and continues to insist that the advice and consent of the Congress is not required because any agreement that is negotiated will be "non-binding". Last night, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough warned Senator Corker not to proceed with the vote, and claimed that such a vote would unduly interfere with the ongoing negotiations. Corker has indicated that the bill will likely come to Senate floor in mid-April at the earliest. [Note this paragraph was edited to correct my erroneous description of the procedural aspects of S. 615. My apologies.]
At the same time, the president intends to present any agreement to the United Nation's Security Council for the purpose of endorsing the agreement by a vote. On Friday, Secretary Kerry's spokesperson Jen Psaki became somewhat fuzzy when she was asked to explain how anything done by the United Nations Security Council would not bind the United States, even though much of the international sanctions regimen imposed on Iran over the years were the product of security council resolutions.
Among other things, the president and his team have failed to adequately explain what it means by a non-binding agreement. Indeed, if the UNSC votes to lift its sanctions, then as a practical matter any retained American sanctions could be rendered toothless, depending on the content of any such resolution.
So, to many, including me, the president could be seen as binding the US through the United Nations Security Council, while resisting congressional oversight under Article II of the Constitution because somehow what is being negotiated is not a treaty. At a minimum the Administration has failed to explain what is going on.
Bruce S. Levine
New York, New York