White House Press Secretary Jay Carney warned Friday that the Department of the Treasury's office of foreign asset control, which carries out the U.S. government's financial sanctions, including those that apply to Iran, has had to furlough nearly all of its staff.
Carney said only 11 of 175 full- time employees are working, "meaning that the office is unable to sustain its core functions."
President Obama was to be briefed later Friday on the effects of the shutdown and Carney said the Treasury furlough "illustrates the consequences that the Republican shutdown continues to have on the government's missions and workers across the country. It is time for the speaker of the House to bring up the Senate-passed funding bill and just vote."
Carney couldn't say whether the furloughs would affect the sanctions against the Iran and Syrian governments.
"The people who handle this important function for the United States government in advancing U.S. national security interests and the national security interests of our allies and partners around the world have been furloughed, and that that is a negative consequence of this wholly unnecessary decision by House Republicans to shut down the government," Carney said, referring reporters to Treasury for further information.
Regardless, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., pressed Treasury in a letter to reconsider what he called its "ill-advised" decision to furlough the sanctions staff, saying that before Oct. 1, Treasury had said it would be able to “continue to provide certain crucial functions” in the event of a shutdown. The administration and lawmakers say the economic sanctions are key to crippling the Iranian regime's economy to force it to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions.
"The Iran sanctions regime has been developed in response to a 'national emergency' as determined by the President," Royce wrote. "I could not agree more that Iran’s drive toward a nuclear weapon is a grave threat to our country."
The office issues new sanctions against those enabling the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as terrorist organizations, weapons of mass destruction proliferators, narcotics cartels, and transnational organized crime groups. It also investigates and penalizes sanctions violations and issues licenses to authorize humanitarian and other activities that might otherwise be barred by sanctions.