Obama administration came out publicly and privately against the Menendez-Kirk
Iran sanctions amendment before it was tweaked by a
conference committee. But does it support the new sanctions language now that
it has emerged from conference? That remains a secret.
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland's
refusal to comment on the Iran sanctions language within the defense
authorization bill, which will go to President Barack Obama's desk this week for signature, baffled members of
the media at Wednesday's press briefing. After all, senior administration
officials have been commenting about the sanctions language for
weeks as part of their effort to influence the congressional
administration worked hard to influence leaders of the House and Senate Armed
Services Committees, who met behind closed doors to make changes to the Menendez-Kirk
amendment. The administration wanted more flexibility in implementing the
sanctions, which are targeted at the Central Bank of Iran and any other foreign
bank that does business with it.
"You've had 24 hours to look at it,
so I'm wondering what you think. Does this meet your concerns? Is it okay?"
AP reporter and rabble rouser Matt Lee asked
Nuland at the top of today's presser.
"The bill is not law yet, so if and
when it does become law, then we're going to have to look very carefully,"
Nuland said. "And I can't, frankly, at this point, speculate on what kinds
of procedures and applications might be called for in this case. So
frankly, I'm going to disappoint you; I don't have much more than we had
yesterday on this, Matt."
Lee, who always gets the first
question at the briefings and has been sparring with Nuland a lot lately, refused to take no for an answer. He pointed out that the
administration has been commenting on the issue all along and often comments on
legislation before it becomes law.
"So you're not going to say anything
about it until after it's too late?" said Lee.
"Again, I think we've been clear
about this," Nuland said. "We've been working with the Congress on it, but
I'm not going to..."
Lee cut her off.
"No, in fact, you haven't been clear
about it, and I think that the other one-third of the government, which is the
Congress, would like -- as well as the rest of us -- would like to know what
the administration thinks about it, especially given the fact that this president
came in promising unprecedented transparency," he said.
After several more rounds of an
uncomfortable back and forth, Nuland refused to budge and indicate one way or
the other whether the administration supports the Iran sanctions language or
She did not give any indication that
the president would veto the defense bill, which is sure to pass the Senate Thursday,
over the new Iran sanctions language. If he did so, Obama would be bucking the
will of all 100 senators, who all voted for the Menendez-Kirk amendment.
In essence, Lee was pressing Nuland
to admit that the administration is being bullied into accepting Iran sanctions
law it doesn't want. Nuland was not about to admit that.
"I'm sorry that's disappointing
today," Nuland said.
"No, it's not disappointing," said
Lee. "I think it's irresponsible."
"You are welcome to that opinion,"