Senate Republicans Move to Mandate Congressional Approval for New Iran Deal

Uranium conversion facility outside Isfahan, Iran / Getty Images
May 26, 2021

A measure in the Senate would require the Biden administration to obtain congressional approval before inking a deal with Iran, according to a copy of the draft amendment obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The amendment would establish a significant roadblock in the Biden administration's bid to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. As negotiations in Vienna with Tehran and European nations progress, the Republican-backed amendment would prevent the Biden administration from signing any new deal without Senate approval. With the body divided along party lines, it is likely the amendment will be broadly supported by the GOP and opposed by Democrats, who largely support the administration's effort to grant Tehran billions of dollars in sanctions relief. It is unclear to what bill the amendment will be attached.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) spearheaded the amendment, which is already cosponsored by James Risch (R., Idaho), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.)—all of whom are on record as opposing the Biden administration's diplomacy with Iran.

The measure is among the first tangible attempts by Senate Republicans to stop the Biden administration from reentering the Iran nuclear deal, which former president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

While it is unlikely any Democrats will break ranks to support the effort, several Democrats, including Senators Ben Cardin (Md.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), and Bob Menendez (N.J.), broke ranks with the Obama administration in 2015 to oppose the accord. The Obama administration was ultimately able to enter the accord by skirting Congress. Republicans do not want to see that happen again.

"Our adversaries understand the Biden administration will chart the same weak and disastrous course as President Obama," Johnson said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. "It's clear the Biden administration is in the business of appeasing adversaries like Russia, state sponsors of terrorism like Iran, and its terrorist proxies like Hamas. Instead of addressing the threats these actors pose, the administration will coddle the Iranian regime and ignore its malign activity throughout the region."

For that reason, Johnson said, "it is critical to the security of America and to world peace that any deal Biden negotiates with Iran be deemed a treaty requiring ratification by the U.S. Senate."

In addition to mandating Senate approval, the amendment would prevent the Biden administration from unilaterally unwinding tough economic sanctions on Iran, which the administration has already begun to do. State Department officials confirmed to the Free Beacon earlier this month that talks in Vienna are largely focused on the scope and scale of sanctions relief. Iranian leaders demand that every sanction applied by the Trump administration as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign be removed. U.S. officials say they are willing to entertain this demand.

The bill stipulates that the "president may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions," according to a copy of the measure viewed by the Free Beacon.

Outgoing Iranian president Hassan Rouhani bragged Wednesday about his country's negotiating leverage, saying Iran "has the upper hand in negotiations," according to reports in the country's state-controlled press.

"Our negotiations now are different from the ones in 2013," Rouhani said, explaining that Iran is largely dictating conditions.

Published under: Iran Nuclear Deal