Kentucky Rep Moves to Defund Biden Iran Deal Efforts

Legislation would bar federal funds from being used to renegotiate with Iran

Rep. Andy Barr (R., Ky.) / Getty Images
March 2, 2021

Rep. Andy Barr (R., Ky.) will introduce a resolution Tuesday morning that forbids the Biden administration from using federal funds to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

The legislation elevates the role of the Senate in foreign policy matters, mandating that any part of the Iran deal that requires federal dollars must be accompanied by written statements to Congress from the administration and that the Senate can assume its powers to oversee the agreement as a treaty process.

"The Obama Administration completely bypassed Congress and the treaty process in agreeing to the disastrous Iranian Nuclear Deal," Barr said. "Congress must reclaim its oversight of the international treaty process and not allow the Biden Administration to govern through Executive fiat."

Barr will push the act through both the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees under the title of the "Iran Nuclear Deal Advise and Consent Act of 2021." The Kentucky Republican said the act intends to make Congress a firewall for any executive action related to the Iran deal, from which then-President Trump withdrew in 2018.

"No Federal funds may be obligated or expended in furtherance of rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015, by Iran and the United States … unless the Biden Administration submits in writing to the House of Representatives and the Senate its commitment to submitting any JCPOA successor agreement to the Senate for advise and consent as a treaty rather than as an international agreement," the proposal says.

The bill comes as the Biden administration inches toward officially reentering negotiations with Iran either to rejoin the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration or construct a new deal. Iran envoy Rob Malley and climate czar John Kerry reportedly met with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif several times between 2017 and 2019. Malley has repeatedly signaled his own commitment to restoring a dialogue between Washington and Tehran, and President Biden campaigned on a platform supporting the Iran deal.

Congressional Republicans and some Democrats have expressed concern about any design from the Biden administration that would return the United States into a deal with Iran. Opponents argue that Iran did not hold fast to denuclearization commitments made under the last deal and that the Islamic regime would likely violate a future agreement.

Concern also comes from allies and partners in the region as well. On Monday, a group of almost 2,000 Israeli retired military officers drafted a letter sent to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken that urged them not to rejoin the deal. The letter cites Iran's growing nuclear ambitions and increasing terror tactics in the region. One general said that rejoining the Iran deal goes beyond politics and is instead about the very survival of the Jewish state.

Barr said that rejoining the deal would directly undermine Israeli national security, in addition to America's own safety.

"If the Biden Administration intends to jeopardize Israeli national security by rejoining the failed Iranian Nuclear Deal, they need to go through Congress to do it," Barr said.

A White House spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon that the United States remains intent on engaging with Iran directly, but is consulting the other members of the U.N. Security Council, despite reports that Tehran is resisting direct nuclear talks with the Biden administration. The spokeswoman said the administration is consulting the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, and Germany over the issue.

"While we are disappointed at Iran's response, we remain ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments," the spokeswoman said.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated with the revised name of Rep. Barr's legislation.