On Friday, May 8, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which would give Congress a role in approving any agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program. The Senate approved the bill 98-1, with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) the only dissenting vote. The House of Representatives could vote on the legislation as early as this week.
As discussed in a previous post, on April 2, 2015 representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia (collectively, the “P5+1” countries) announced that they had agreed with Iran on the Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The parties now have until June 30, 2015 to reach a final agreement. One of the major open issues is what sanctions on Iran would be removed and when. Complicating this negotiation, especially following passage of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, is President Obama’s authority to lift U.S. sanctions on his own authority.
Under the legislation passed by the Senate, Congress would have 30 days to review the agreement and the proposed sanctions relief plan (longer under certain circumstances). Congress may then enact a joint resolution in favor of the agreement, enact a joint resolution opposing the agreement, or take no action. If Congress approves the agreement or takes no action, the President may then grant sanctions relief in line with the authority that currently exists under relevant statutes. If Congress votes to disapprove of the agreement, the President can veto the joint resolution and, if Congress fails to override the veto, he can still move forward with sanctions relief. However, if that veto is overridden by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress, then the President would be prohibited from lifting sanctions. Continue reading →