Yesterday, Ted Cruz had his first authored bill get signed into law, but the freshman Senator from Texas probably didn’t too excited by the victory. Despite unanimous support in both chambers of Congress for the new law, President Barack Obama sounded less than enthusiastic about enforcing the bill he signed yesterday that would block the proposed Iranian envoy to the UN from receiving an entry visa to the US:
It’s the oddest of legislative couples: President Obama and one of his biggest critics, Ted Cruz.
Obama on Friday signed a Cruz-backed bill aimed at blocking Iran’s appointed ambassador to the United Nations because of evidence linking him to the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran.
Technically, the law bars individuals from entering the U.S. as U.N. ambassadors if they are “found to have been engaged in espionage or terrorist activity directed against the United States or its allies.”
In reality, the bill targets a specific Iranian individual: Hamid Aboutalebi, who has been refused a visa by the administration.
Aboutalebi belonged to the same organization that seized and held American diplomats in 1979 from the Tehran embassy — people who should have had the same diplomatic immunity Iran now demands for Aboutalebi. The group acted as a front for the Iranian government and held dozens of Americans for 444 days. Aboutalebu now claims that he only provided translation and negotiation services for the group, but his appointment was clearly intended as a slap in the face to the US. Cruz and Chuck Schumer responded to the provocation with the bill that bars his entry to the US, which passed the Senate by acclamation and the House approval quickly followed.
That kind of widespread consensus put the White House in a tough spot. At first, the Obama administration appeared tentative about the Iranian appointment, mindful of US obligations under Article IV of the 1947 treaty establishing UN headquarters within the US. At first, Jay Carney referred reporters to the State Department for answers as to whether Aboutalebi would get his credentials, but later last week the White House announced that it would not approve the application.
That still left the Cruz-Schumer bill, which Obama apparently felt was more trouble to veto than to sign — although Obama waited a long time to act. The President signed it in a Friday afternoon document dump-style act on Good Friday, and then issued a signing statement that insisted the law was merely “advisory”:
President Obama on Friday signed into law a bill authored by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that would bar an Iranian diplomat from entering the United States, but immediately issued a statement saying he won’t enforce it.
Obama decided to treat the law as mere advice. “Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation,” Obama said in his signing statement.
“Nevertheless, as President [George H.W.] Bush also observed, “curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.” I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.”
Iran is “outraged” over the decision:
As Joel Gehrke pointed out for the Washington Examiner (and even Al-Jazeera notes above), Obama spent the better part of two years ripping into George W. Bush for issuing signing statements that denied that the executive had to abide by bills he signed. The self-described Constitutional law scholar lectured Bush on the constitutional remedy for bills that the executive refuses to enforce, which is the veto. If Obama wants advice, he can ask for it; if he signs a law, he must abide by it. Most Constitution experts already know this.
The UN wants to stay out of the dispute, and even one Iranian general wants Tehran to throw in the towel:
A senior Iranian military official has urged the foreign ministry to name a new envoy to the UN after the US blocked its chosen ambassador over alleged ties to the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Saturday.
Gen. Mohammad Bagherzadeh also said that Hamid Aboutalebi should remain close to his mother because the family lost two sons during the 1980-88 war with Iraq.
That would be a good excuse for Tehran to retreat, especially since the UN doesn’t want to get involved. Either they pick someone else or go unrepresented at the UN. We’ll see who replaces Aboutalebi, though; don’t think the insults have stopped for good.