U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passes bill giving Congress oversight of Iran deal

The Iran nuclear program's heavy-water reactor at Arak. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which would give Congress a 30-day period to review a final nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, in a 98-1 vote.

The only senator to vote against the bill was U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who objected on the grounds that the legislation does not require a final nuclear agreement to be submitted as a treaty requiring Senate approval. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was absent for the vote.

President Barack Obama is expected to approve the bill, which is authored by U.S. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D.N.J.), after initially vowing to veto a version of the legislation that gave Congress twice as long—60 days—to review a nuclear deal. 

As part of a bipartisan compromise with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Corker had also agreed to modify the bill’s language on terrorism. The legislation originally called for the president to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran was not involved in terrorism against Americans, with sanctions being re-imposed if Iran was found complicit in terror. Under the new language, the president would need to send Congress periodic reports on Iran’s involvement in terrorism and on its ballistic missile program, but the details of those reports would not set off the renewal of sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear deal. 

The bill’s next step—before it reaches Obama’s desk—is a vote in the House of Representatives, where the proposal needs a simple majority to pass.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said Thursday after the bill’s Senate passage, “This important legislation provides Congress a mechanism to assert its historic foreign policy role and review any agreement to ensure it meets U.S. objectives, prevents relief of Congressionally-imposed sanctions if it disapproves of the agreement, and requires the administration to report on Iran’s compliance with a deal. AIPAC urges the House to take speedy action on Congressional review legislation and send it to the president for signature into law.”

Posted on May 7, 2015 .