Effective Nuclear Deal Possible With Iran, Cardin Says

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) leaves after he spoke during a news conference March 24, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ben Cardin says an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear activities is possible though he and other lawmakers will insist on strong safeguards because they don’t trust that country’s leaders.

“I really take issue with those who are saying we can’t have an effective agreement,” the Maryland Democrat said in a meeting Monday with Bloomberg editors and reporters in New York.

However, Cardin said any deal must contain access for international inspectors to Iranian research and other sites, and language for “real” and meaningful sanctions “if they don’t live up to what they say they are going to do.”

“We can have an effective agreement as long as they can take those two points,” Cardin said. “We have that, good. Then we don’t have to trust Iran. I don’t trust them, don’t trust them at all. I think they want a nuclear weapon. There is no trust in Iran -- that is the understatement of the day.”

Cardin also said he thinks the Senate will pass legislation co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee and the panel’s top Democrat, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, to require congressional review of any deal with Iran. He said he thinks there are 60 votes in the chamber to advance the bill, though he was unsure whether there would be 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.

Cardin said Congress doesn’t intend to undermine President Barack Obama’s bargaining strength, and the senator said he strongly disagreed with a letter written to Iranian leaders by 47 Senate Republicans opposing a deal. Yet he said he hopes the president would decide he can’t afford a veto and realizes the importance of “our unity” in negotiations with Iran.

Transportation Funding

On other issues, Cardin predicted Congress will be able to pass a six-year reauthorization of highway funding, though doing so before funding expires May 31 is “a little bit ambitious.” He said he backs the idea of Congress establishing an “infrastructure bank” to fund transportation and other needs such as water and education projects.

Cardin predicted the Senate will act on passage of its version of legislation to change the way doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients by April 15. The House passed a bipartisan bill last week, which the Senate didn’t consider before it left for a two-week recess.

The Maryland senator said he’ll reintroduce this year his proposal to revise the U.S. tax code with a “progressive consumption tax” plan. It would eliminate federal income taxes for couples earning less than $100,000 and individuals earning less than $50,000 and instead tax the purchase of goods and services.

Rent Exemption

He said there would be special rules for such things as financial services, and exemptions for rent and real estate.

Cardin said he didn’t get advance word about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s decision, announced Friday, not to seek re-election in Nevada in 2016. He said he thinks Reid will serve the rest of his term in an active manner.

He said Senator Charles Schumer of New York called to seek his support to succeed Reid as Democratic leader, and Cardin said he gave it to him.

(An earlier version corrected the sixth paragraph to show the letter was written by Senate Republicans.)

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