March 5, 2015, Washington D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) last week introduced legislation which would require congressional review and approval of any nuclear deal reached with Iran. The bill, entitled the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015 (S.615),” has to date a total of eleven cosponsors and has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Introduced February 27th, the legislation sets up a mechanism for Congress to approve, disapprove, or take no action on an agreement with Iran. It would require the president to submit the text of any agreement to Congress within five days of the final settlement. Congress would then be able to review the agreement for 60 days during which time the president would be restrained from waiving any additional sanctions on Iran outside of those designated by Joint Plan of Action. In addition, the legislation would require an evaluation of Iran’s compliance to the deal as well as Iran’s role in terrorist activities every 90 days. Should compliance not be certified or a breach is determined to have occurred, congress would be able to vote in an expedited process to restore previous sanctions upon Iran.
“Allowing Congress to play its critical and historic role of reviewing international agreements will help, not hinder, these negotiations by ensuring any comprehensive agreement is verifiable and will stand the test of time” said Senator Corker in a recent press release.
While the S.615 has received bipartisan support, the White House has threatened to veto the legislation. “The President has been clear that now is not the time for Congress to pass additional legislation on Iran,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement to the media. “If this bill is sent to the President, he will veto it.”
In an attempt to bypass the committee process, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his intentions to bring the legislation – under a new bill number – directly to the Senate floor for a vote. The move has provoked staunch criticism from Democrats, including Senator Menendez who sent a letter along with nine other Senate Democrats to McConnell warning that they will vote against the bill if it has not gone through normal committee procedures and before the March 24th deadline.
“The deadline for a political framework agreement with Iran is March 24 and a final agreement is not expected to be reached until end of June. There is no immediate or urgent need to circumvent the Committee process and we are disappointed that you’ve pursued this partisan course of action.” the senators wrote.
Meanwhile, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and several other Senate Democrats introduced alternative legislation on Wednesday, which they assert would not undermine on-going negotiations but would ensure that Congress has a central role in overseeing any nuclear deal with Iran. The Iran Congressional Oversight Act of 2015 would require the Administration to regularly report to Congress on Iranian compliance with any deal, and sets up an expedited process for Congress to reinstate sanctions and impose other penalties if Iran violates the terms of the deal.
“I am proud of this bill because it will ensure that if there is a nuclear deal and if Iran violates it, there will be immediate action by Congress to reinstate sanctions and consider even tougher penalties against Iran,” said Senator Boxer in press release.
As an organization that represents the Iranian American community, PAAIA supports efforts to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the decade-long stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program. We recognize the importance of ensuring that Iranian Americans are well informed and aware of the positions held by their elected officials and others related to this matter. For more information on this issue, please see our Nuclear Negotiations Resource Center.