In a heated exchange with Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to say whether the Obama administration would commit to Congressionally-imposed sanctions against Iran, should congress overturn a presidential veto on the Iran nuclear deal.
Sec. Kerry was on Capitol Hill Tuesday as part of a White House entourage that included Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. They testified on the Iran nuclear agreement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“This [treaty] is not binding on Iran. This is not binding on the United States,” the Democratic Congressman said in critiquing the weakness of the Iran deal. “Its not even an executive legislative agreement, and even these gentleman here [White House officials] aren’t [sic] even asking for Congress to approve the deal.”
Sherman suggested that “it might be at least morally” sound for “this administration” to ask Congress what they think about the deal.
Iran “is holding four American hostages. [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad is killing 5,000 people a month… and the blood is on the hands of the men in Tehran,” said Sherman. The regime is “supporting Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthi, and those are just the organizations that begin with the letter H,” he added.
He then asked Secretary Kerry, “Is Congress free to adopt new sanctions legislation” as is outlined in the Constitution “that will remain in force as long as Iran holds” the four American hostages captive and supports the Assad regime?
Kerry responded, “We’re free to adopt additional sanctions as long as they are not a phony excuse for” replacing the old sanctions with new ones.
The Democratic representative responded: “You strongly do not want [Congress] to override a presidential veto, but if we do that triggers certain American laws. I’d like to give you an opportunity… You don’t want us to do it. You think its terrible policy. You think the rest of the world would be against us.”
He then asked Sec. Kerry, “let’s say Congress doesn’t take your advice–we override a veto–and the law thats triggered then imposes certain sanctions. Will you follow the law even though you think it violates this agreement, and even if you think its absolutely terrible policy?” Sherman asked.
To which Kerry responded: “I can’t begin to answer that at this point without consulting with the President and determing what the circumstances are.”
“So you’re not committed to following the law?” Sherman interrupted.
Kerry replied: “I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical, thats all.”