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Tags: Pete Roskam | Lee Zeldin | Obama | Iran | nuclear deal | House Appropriations | strip funding

Lawmakers on Both Sides Push to Cut Funding for Iran Nuclear Deal

By    |   Friday, 20 March 2015 10:23 PM EDT

With Republicans and Democrats frustrated by the Obama administration's efforts to push through an Iran nuclear deal without congressional input, a push is under way to use the appropriations process to cut funding for a proposed agreement.

The Washington Free Beacon reported Friday that Republican Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lee Zeldin of New York are asking their colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee to strip funding for the deal.

They want Congress to do something that has become highly controversial during the Obama era: use its power of the purse. Roskam and Zeldin are urging the appropriations panel to cut off funds for travel abroad, hotel stays, and other activities related to the nuclear talks between Washington and Iran.

In a letter that will reportedly be sent Tuesday to leading members of the appropriations panel, the pair urge that funding for the deal be zeroed out of the fiscal 2016 budget.

"After two negotiation extensions, billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and an emerging deal that would utterly fail to dismantle Iran's nuclear program, we should abandon these talks until Tehran is prepared to make meaningful concessions that would truly block its path to a bomb," the pair write.

"We therefore respectfully request that you work to include the prohibition on additional funds for U.S. involvement in these ill-conceived negotiations," they add in the letter, addressed to both Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, Republican chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs; and the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York.

Roskam and Zeldin say they are deeply worried over reports that the administration has agreed that Tehran can retain parts of its nuclear infrastructure, including the right to enrich uranium.

There also is a consensus among Republicans that the Obama administration cannot be counted on to act decisively if Tehran cheats.

"At this point, Iran seems more intent on buying time to advance its nuclear program rather than negotiating in good faith," the letter states. "Congress must act to ensure that negotiations with Iran do not proceed if Tehran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons with impunity and if no meaningful progress is made."

The lawmakers also slam the Obama administration for working to keep Congress "in the dark" about key details of the emerging deal with Iran.

The agreement reportedly under consideration "would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure virtually intact and expire in 10 years, at which point the mullahs could freely pursue a nuclear weapon," Roskam and Zeldin write. "Moreover, Congress has been left completely in the dark by the administration, which continues to stonewall bipartisan calls for prospective sanctions on Iran and congressional approval over any final agreement."

One senior congressional aide familiar with the letter told the Free Beacon that taxpayer dollars should not be spent on a deal that would only embolden Iran.

"The administration has refused to include Congress in any way, shape, or form throughout its destructive negotiations with Iran," the aide said. "I'm not surprised that lawmakers are trying to exercise their constitutional power of the purse in order to prevent indefinite extensions of these backward talks."

"They are fed up, and the American taxpayers, who don't want to be complicit in this failing strategy, are fed up," the source added. "What this letter is basically saying is, 'This experiment has gone on long enough, so we're no longer going to foot the bill.'"

A key question, however, is whether Congress is prepared to use the power of the purse if Obama declares his intention to veto legislation aimed at limiting his authority.

In 2013, Republican efforts to defund Obamacare collapsed in the face of administration opposition, and just last month, Republican efforts to defund Obama's executive amnesty fell apart as well.

Given the recent record, it is unclear at this point whether House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be prepared to risk a government shutdown — something they have repeatedly vowed would not happen on their watch — to derail what they see as a bad Iran agreement.

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With Republicans and Democrats frustrated by the Obama administration's efforts to push through an Iran nuclear deal without congressional input, a push is under way to use the appropriations process to cut off funding for a proposed agreement.
Pete Roskam, Lee Zeldin, Obama, Iran, nuclear deal, House Appropriations, strip funding, Congress, power of the purse
Friday, 20 March 2015 10:23 PM
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