Republicans are gearing up to reauthorize sanctions against Iran in a bid to at least partially nullify provisions of the Iran nuclear deal. Reuters reported Tuesday the vote could come as early as November to renew the Iran Sanctions Act, which is scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
Lawmakers return to Washington Nov. 14, about a week after the Nov. 8 general election. The renewal measure is expected to sail through the House but its fate is uncertain in the Senate.
Republicans opposed the Iran nuclear deal, which eased economic sanctions against Iran’s energy sector in exchange for Iran curtailing its nuclear program. Restrictions against its banking sector remain in place as well as against individual companies.
“We are very frustrated as members of Congress with this issue because whatever we do, President [Barack] Obama seems hell-bent on currying favor with Iran, and nothing we do persuades him otherwise,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., told the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal in an interview.
Some Senate Republicans want to go further than a simple renewal, calling for the ability to punish individuals and businesses involved in Iran’s ballistic missile tests and to eliminate the president’s ability to waive sanctions for security reasons.
The administration has asked Congress to hold off, saying the U.S. already has the power to reimpose sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear pact, whether the Iran Sanctions Act is renewed or not. Officials say they are focused on making sure Iran complies with the deal, which they say was needed to keep Iran from gathering enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. At the time Iran was believed just months away from that goal.
“Regardless of who the next president is, Congress needs to take the lead to make sure Iran pays a very heavy price for all its actions, whether it’s related to human rights, support of terrorism, or continuing to improve upon its ballistic missile testing capability,” Perry said.
He added: “The Obama administration is essentially allowing Iran to do virtually anything it wants for fear any protesting by the U.S., our Western partners, or the U.N. will scuttle the nuclear deal. Whether the next administration would feel the same way, I don’t know. But Congress has every obligation to bring back our leverage.”
A group of Senate Democrats was poised to join the chamber’s 54 Republicans to support renewal. Sixty votes will be needed to block a filibuster and move the measure forward.
Democrats pushing for renewal include Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Roll Call reported. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Democrat Hillary Clinton’s running mate, introduced his own bill to renew the sanctions act.
Roll Call said Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said a straight renewal of the sanctions act could pass by unanimous consent but the measure would face opposition if Republicans attempt to add new provisions.