Iranian army members conduct a missile test. (AP/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour) (AP/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour)
Nuclear Iran

The Senate nearly unanimously passed a bill granting it oversight of the Iran nuclear deal after the White House conceded it could not exclude Congress from the negotiating process.

The Senate nearly unanimously passed legislation giving it oversight over the nuclear agreement with Iran. The bill was a source of tension between Congress and the White House, which claimed that a nuclear deal is not legally a treaty and therefore not subject to Senate approval. US negotiators will resume talks with Iran as part of the P5+1 next week.

The bill, which passed 98-1, gives Congress 52 days to review the Iranian nuclear deal. It also restricts the president’s ability to waive Congress-imposed sanctions and requires the White House to report every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) sponsored the bill.

The purpose of the bill was to ensure that the White House did not agree to an Iran deal that would leave open the way to nuclear weapons. Congress was outraged at being excluded from weighing in on a topic of such importance to the American people.

US Senator Bob Corker

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Furthermore, the Constitution explicitly requires foreign treaties to be ratified by the Senate. The administration claimed that a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is not a treaty.

“At the end of the day, without this bill there is no review of what happens with Iran,” said Sen. Corker from the Senate floor. “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has taken back the power that the president now has.”

Regarding congressional sanctions on Iran, he added, “Without this bill there is no limitation of the president’s use of waivers to suspend the sanctions that Congress put in place…In summary: no bill, no review; no bill, no oversight.”

No Demand for Recognition of Israel

President Barack Obama originally threatened to veto the legislation. However, as it became clear that the Senate would likely achieve the supermajority necessary to overturn the veto, the administration began to cooperate to amend the bill into a form it found more palatable. This cooperation brought the Democratic holdouts on board.

The single nay vote came from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who objected to the fact that Iran would not be required to recognize Israel as part of the nuclear deal.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel