June 19th, 2009
04:15 PM ET
9 years ago

Congress overwhelmingly approves Iran resolutions

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved resolutions Friday that support "all Iranians who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law."

The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent, while in the House the resolution was approved by 405 lawmakers, with one congressman - Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas - voting against it. Two other lawmakers, Reps. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, voted "present."

The Senate also approved a resolution sponsored by Sens. Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware, and Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, supporting freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Iran.

In a statement on his Web site, Paul said he voted against the House measure because he is "always very cautious about 'condemning' the actions of governments overseas."

"I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little," said Paul, who attracted attention last year during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. "And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran."

The resolution, which also "condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators," was sponsored in the House by Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat, and Republicans Mike Pence and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

Speaking shortly after the resolution passed, Pence called it a message from the American people to the Iranian people.

"As Americans have done throughout our history, this Congress today, on behalf of the American people, has spoken a word of heartfelt support to all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law," he said.

He urged U.S. senators to support the "identical" resolution that was introduced Friday by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut.

"The time has come for the United States Congress to speak out unequivocally in support of the fundamental right of the Iranian people to determine their future for themselves in freedom," McCain and Lieberman said in a joint statement.

"With this resolution, the Senate joined with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to affirm our shared commitment to the universal values of democracy, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law, and to condemn the unacceptable violence against the peaceful demonstrators taking place in Iran."

Both Pence and McCain have been outspoken in their criticism of President Barack Obama's response to this week's massive rallies in Iran against the results of last week's presidential election.

The U.S. government is in a precarious position regarding how to respond to the situation.

Supporters of Iranian opposition leaders - including Mir Hossein Moussavi, who finished second to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the vote - have taken to the streets this week calling for a new election after the results of last Friday's vote showed an overwhelming victory for incumbent hardline president.

The rallies have also denounced the Iranian government's crackdown on the protests, which killed at least eight people.

Obama has said he is "deeply troubled" by the violent protests but he has avoided siding with Ahmadinejad's opponents, telling reporters that "It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be."

"It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections," Obama said this week.

On Thursday, Cantor joined the critics of the White House's response to Iran's disputed election, saying the United States has a "moral responsibility" to condemn attacks on protesters.

"The administration's position that what's going on in Iran is a 'vigorous debate' is absurd," he said. "People are being brutalized and murdered by the regime in Tehran. We have no idea exactly how many have died or have been seriously injured, since the regime has restricted journalists. In no way do these actions constitute a 'vigorous debate.'"

The congressman from Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, added that "America has a moral responsibility to stand up for these brave people, to defend human rights, and to condemn the violence and abuses by the regime in Tehran."

Pence has called on the United States "to take a half-step back from this administration's olive branch and the apology approach to enemies and countries that have been hostile to the United States of America and our allies, particularly with the road to Iran."

But Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Washington would be making an "enormous mistake" by taking sides in the Iranian protests.

"There is no need for the United States of America to step into the middle of it and make this about America," Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, told CNN's "The Situation Room."

"It is an Iranian moment, spurred on by Iranians, thoroughly supported by Iranians to the degree that the supreme ayatollah has now backed off his own support for the elections (and) called for an investigation," he said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended the administration's approach this week, telling reporters that Obama "believes that he's struck the right tone."

"I know some people agree with what Sen. McCain said. Some people agree with what other Republicans have said that's very much like the president's position," Gibbs said Thursday. "The president strongly believes that we should - and have - spoken out to ensure the demonstrators have the universal right and principle to demonstrate without fear of harm. But at the same time, we have to respect their sovereignty."

Moorhead Kennedy, a former diplomat who was among the hostages held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days from November 1979 until January 1981, said he supports the Obama administration's position.

"I think if I had any conclusion to draw, we would have been much better off not interfering in Iran now," he told CNN's "American Morning."

Because the United States backed a 1953 coup that put Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in charge, and supported him until the 1979 revolution that created today's Islamic republic, Kennedy said, "There are a great many resentments there."

- CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Deirdre Walsh, Peter Hamby and Dan Lothian contributed to this report.

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Jon in CA

    Sadly... the president by his actions voted "Present".

    Considering his 200+ "Present" votes while a legislator we should not be surprised.

    Too bad Obama isn't a REAL leader.

    June 19, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. RAG

    Great Googly Moogly! Can't the Congress let the Executive Branch conduct foreign policy? Obama has been doing a masterful job in manuvering the situation into an opening for improving relations with Iran. Now the boneheads in Congress hhave to undercut his work? I guess they figure their political careers are worth more than world peace and the lives of American soldiers.

    June 19, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. Randolph Carter

    Nice going, guys. Now the Iranian powers that be can say that the protesters are foreign supported and go in and crack skulls. Way to not grasp the subtleties of foreign affairs. Have a nice day!

    June 19, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  4. S Callahan

    I am very confused as to why Ron Paul would not support this resolution. Any further info CNN?

    I think this is the way to go. We don't need to meddle but this is giving a silent voice of support and encouragement to the 70% young adults as well as their elders who now also support reform. This really isn't about the election..it's about birth given rights to all citizens of the earth (namely, freedom, right of expression, hope)

    June 19, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown

    WOW! This is really going to have Iran's Supreme Leader shaking in his sandals! Give me a break!

    June 19, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. SnowBird

    Let them all move to the US, give them free health care, give them jobs, let them speak Iranian, so the Dems can have 12 more illegal voters.

    June 19, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. Carlos

    With two of them voting present I guess mobamy is back in the senate that was his favorite vote then.

    June 19, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. Kate in SW Fla

    Every single Foreign Policy expert, except the likes of Neo-con John Bolton, advised against this. Dick Lugar, John Kerry, Henry Kissinger – geez, even Pat Buchanan. This is an outrage. Once the moron republicans introduced it, the weak kneed Dems followed suit, more afraid of attack ads next fall than doing what is best for the country.
    This is MY question, why do Republicans hate America? Seriously, what is wrong with these poeple? In all of my 59 years, I have never felt like this before. If this partisan posturing is going to continue without end, there is 0% that we will ever regain our place of prominance as a world leader. China and Russia are going to squash us like bugs. These dudes are basically fighting over the Titanic, AFTER it hit the berg. Disgusting.

    June 19, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Mike

    not to be rude, but why is our congress wasting time on stuff like this and apologizing for slavery....

    Please do something to earn your salary

    June 19, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. brian

    If the US House is supporting those who "embrace... the rule of law" does that mean they are actually against all the protestors in Iran, since the government there has outlawed such events, and the protestors are technically breaking the law?

    June 19, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. Kate in SW Fla

    No one will ever be able to convince me that any of these jerks care about the Iranians one iota. This is a disgrace.

    June 19, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Joan

    Unfortunately the Supreme Leader will use things like this to his advantage. Also, the comments from John McCain and others will be used too. He already blamed the US media this morning for interfering in Iran's internal politics. As much as everyone dislikes it, he is the ultimate leader in Iran and he's not going anyplace soon. This is all going to make it much harder to deal with Iran when the dust settles and will make peace in the Middle East much more difficult to achieve. Everyone should look at the big picture and try to figure out how their comments are going to affect the future.

    June 19, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Joel

    It is time for Obama to speak on this . And who in the -- voted no? and present don't they have any hope for freedom .

    June 19, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. Who do they think they are/

    Can you imagine what these bunch of politicians would have done and said IF IRAN HAD TRIED TO POKE THEIR NOSE IN OUR ELECTION?
    You "representatives" need to get off your dead asses and try taking care of your own country. When you get that down pat then (and only then) do you have the right to tell some other country how to handle their business...

    Your collective noses are stuck in affairs that don't want you there. Let Iran ran their own country!!!!!

    June 19, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. WhoCares?

    And the point?

    Why do our elected officials still think that the US saber-rattling has any effect anymore in the world order?

    This isn't the 1980's anymore gang.

    The game's changed and until you figure it out...you will still think these idiotic public displays have some sort of purpose.

    June 19, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. WhoCares?

    "I guess they figure their political careers are worth more than world peace and the lives of American soldiers."

    I hope everyone on both sides can agree that this is all this is about. Just so these clowns can say in the next election cycle that they voted for this idiotic resolution.

    Look at me...I love America...VOTE FOR ME!!!!

    June 19, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Mississippi Mike

    Why isn't Obama supporting the Hope and Change going on in Iran? Unfortunately, this support for abusive dictatorships fits right in line with his support of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and the Muslim totalitarian states in the world. I think he admires their control over their citizens and wants the same for himself.

    June 19, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Rob

    "President Obama quickly issued an apology to the Iranian Government for the resolution, calling it another example of America's arrogance."

    June 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Carole

    So now this will be the Rethugs hound dog to land their fleas on? I am sick of them like vultures being so negative. Do they have ANY solutions at all besides negativity?

    Eric Cantor is creepy. Is this party still into the Axis of Evil and Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran? Ridiculous. (Go to a Brittney concert Cantor!)

    We have seen experts on both sides of the aisle say to keep our nose out of it. These people are straight up prostitutes. If they see a chance to get on TV blasting the President they do it.

    If Iranians are killed the blood is on these fools hands, not President Obama.

    June 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Jefe

    Jon in CA, we all know what you're looking for in a leader:

    Gross violations of the Constitution
    Unnecessary Debt Spending
    Funneling of $Billions to cohorts corporations
    Lying to the public about justifications for war
    Destruction of the middle-class
    Drastic increases in illegal immigration
    Drastic increases in terrorist recruitment
    Decimation of the readiness of our national defense

    I hate to burst your anti-American bubble, but George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have left the White House, and now, like it or not, you're stuck with a President who is considered by all except the most extreme, anti-American fascists to be at least 100 times better than his predecessor who failed for 8 full years to do even one thing right for the country.

    June 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Skip, a black man

    OBAMA voted PRESENT.....he is such a great leader

    June 19, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. suzyku

    Excuse me but frankly the House doing this is NOT a good idea! Plays right into the hardliners hands in Iran. President Obama is doing the right thing here!

    June 19, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    And the purpose of this for what? What a waste of time.

    June 19, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Chipster

    Yeah and big woop, what did this achieve exactly – other than grand-standing? The State Department has called for Iran to count all of the votes but this is a problem for the Iranian people. The U.S. government is not in the business of running elections in nations around the world.

    I have a great idea! How about if our representatives work on the U.S. financial, health care, environmental, education, energy, regulatory, emergency management, defense, and – yes – election issues? Stop campaigning long enough to get a little work done!

    June 19, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Shecky

    Obama has no clue what he is doing. That's why he does nothing. He is like a deer in the headlights. But that's what you get when you put a small time Community Organizer in The White House.

    2012 can't come soon enough.

    June 19, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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