The Biden administration will not commit to submitting a new Iran nuclear deal to Congress for approval, as is required by U.S. law.
With the United States poised to ink a new deal with Tehran that will unwind virtually all economic sanctions on Iran and provide the hardline regime with billions in cash windfalls, the State Department won't say whether the deal will be sent to Congress for sign-off. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA)—which was passed after the Obama administration signed a deal without congressional approval—President Joe Biden must submit any deal to the Senate for it to be considered American policy.
The State Department told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday that it will consider the INARA law but stopped short of guaranteeing a new deal will first be submitted to Congress.
"The administration will carefully consider the facts and circumstances of any U.S. return to the JCPOA to determine the legal implications, including those under INARA," a State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon in response to questions about whether Congress will get an up-or-down vote on the deal. "We are committed to ensuring the requirements of INARA are satisfied." The spokesman did not expand on that answer.
The State Department comments come just days after 33 GOP senators wrote to the Biden administration demanding that any deal reached with Tehran be presented to Congress for approval. The lawmakers vowed to block the implementation of any deal, including massive sanctions relief, if the Biden administration violates INARA.
"In case President Biden and his team have forgotten basic processes of constitutional and legal mandates, just like they've forgotten the basic rules of diplomacy, they are required and Congress will require them to submit any Iran deal they agree to," a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who spearheaded the letter, told the Free Beacon. "There is a bipartisan expectation that Congress will get a vote on a deal. Failure to do so will result in broad opposition and, ultimately, he can't implement a deal if Congress forbids him from doing so."
The State Department says it intends to consult with lawmakers from both parties about the deal, but it remains unclear if it will choose to violate INARA in order to cement an agreement with Iran. The dispute threatens to detonate the deal before it is completed. If Congress refuses to grant Iran the sanctions relief promised by the Biden administration during talks, Tehran will continue advancing its nuclear program, which is already on the cusp of producing enough fissile material to fuel an atomic weapon.
"The president believes that a bipartisan approach to Iran is the strongest way to safeguard U.S. interests for the long-term, and administration officials have reached out at all levels to members of Congress and their staff to discuss our approach to Iran," the State Department spokesman said.
Additionally, Iran envoy Robert Malley is "deeply committed to continued close engagement with Congress in a bipartisan manner as Iran policy continues to develop. He and his staff continue to hold routine briefings with members and their staff and they remain available and committed to doing so," according to the spokesman.
Republican senators, in their Monday letter to Biden, warned that "we are committed to using the full range of options and leverage available to United States senators to ensure that you meet those obligations [under INARA], and that the implementation of any agreement will be severely if not terminally hampered if you do not."
Any agreement with Iran that is not considered a treaty and delivered to the Senate for approval will "likely be torn up in the opening days of the next presidential administration, as early as January 2025," the senators warn. "That timeline is roughly as long as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) survived implementation, and potentially even shorter."