Forty-nine Senate Republicans are threatening to derail the Biden administration’s efforts to secure a new Iran nuclear agreement within the coming days.
Any new agreement that "does not have strong bipartisan support in Congress will not survive," the senators said in a statement issued Monday and provided to the White House. The lawmakers warned the administration that if it bypasses Congress and agrees to a deal without first allowing a vote in the Senate—as is required under a 2015 law—they will do "everything in our power to reverse it."
"The administration has thus far refused to commit to submit a new Iran deal to the Senate for ratification as a treaty, as per its constitutional obligation, or for review under statutory requirements that passed on a bipartisan basis in response to the 2015 deal," the senators said, according to a copy of the statement obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "Additionally, despite earlier promises to the contrary, the administration has failed to adequately consult with Congress." Every Republican senator except Rand Paul (Ky.) signed on to the statement, signaling widespread unity in opposition to a new deal.
The statement is the latest warning to the White House that a new Iran deal has little chance of surviving into the future. One of the main sticking points in negotiations has been Iran’s insistence that any sanctions relief provided under the deal be permanent and irreversible. If the Biden administration refuses to let Congress vote on the deal, there will be little it can do to stop Republicans from nixing the agreement and reversing Tehran’s sanctions relief. The Obama administration’s decision to ink a deal without Congress is what allowed former president Donald Trump to so easily abandon the accord. The Republican senators say this outcome will be repeated.
"Unless Iran ceases its support for terrorism, we will oppose removing and seek to reimpose any terrorism-related sanctions," they said. "And we will force the Senate to vote on any administration effort to do so."
The statement comes just weeks after nearly 200 Republican House lawmakers signed on to a similar letter expressing opposition to a new deal and promising to block sanctions relief for Iran.
With the Senate evenly divided between the parties, it remains unclear if a new deal could muster the votes for approval. Republican leaders are now urging their Democratic colleagues to join them in opposing any deal that does not sufficiently restrict Iran’s contested nuclear program.
"We strongly urge the administration, our Democrat colleagues, and the international community to learn the lessons of the very recent past," the lawmakers said. "A major agreement that does not have strong bipartisan support in Congress will not survive." Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has signaled concerns about the Biden administration's negotiations and has called for increased pressure to counter Iran's nuclear program.
While details of the new agreement remain mostly secret, there have been indications that the deal is a boon for Iran and its partners in China and Russia. Moscow’s top negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, said last week that Iran "got much more than it could expect" in the talks.
"I am absolutely sincere in this regard. Iran got much more than it could expect," Ulyanov said in an interview about the negotiations. "Much more. … Realistically speaking, Iran got more than frankly I expected, others expected. This is a matter of fact."
Republicans say any deal that doesn't halt Iran’s nuclear work and end its development of ballistic missiles will not stand.
"Republicans have made it clear: We would be willing and eager to support an Iran policy that completely blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapons capability, constrains Iran’s ballistic missile program, and confronts Iran’s support for terrorism," the senators said.
A new deal is expected to be announced in the coming days. Iran says negotiations have mostly ended and that the parties are waiting for the Biden administration to accept the proposal.