US Congress sends Iran nuclear review bill to Obama15 may 2015, 15:47
The US Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday assuring lawmakers have the right to review, and perhaps reject, any nuclear deal that President Barack Obama reaches with Iran, AFP reports.
The measure, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 400 to 25, one week after it cleared the Senate, now goes to the White House, with Obama signaling he will sign it.
Washington and world powers Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are in the midst of negotiations with Tehran to finalize a deal by June 30 that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for an easing of punishing economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic since 2006.
A US delegation led by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman traveled to Vienna, Austria and joined the crunch talks, which resumed Tuesday.
The White House has been negotiating essentially in secret, in part due to concerns that US lawmakers might seek to torpedo a deal that fell short of their demands.
A framework agreement was reached with Iran on April 2 in Lausanne, where negotiators laid out several bullet points, including one asserting that economic sanctions would snap back into place should Iran be found violating the accord.
The period up to June 30 is being used to iron out several remaining technical details.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said the bill made clear that lawmakers would not let the Obama administration "shut Congress out of the process" of approving a nuclear accord.
"Congress will be in a much better position to judge any final agreement to ensure that the Obama administration hasn't struck a bad deal."
The bill will allow lawmakers at least 30 days to review any final Iran nuclear pact.
The original bill's co-author, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, praised the House action and said Congress will have to vote up or down on the Iran deal "before the president could provide relief from congressional sanctions."
The legislation would also compel the president to report back to Congress every 90 days about Iran's compliance with the deal.
Lawmakers would have the ability to support or oppose the pact by voting for or against lifting congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran.
Should Congress pass a resolution opposing the accord, Obama would have 12 days to veto it. If he does, Congress would have 10 more days to override the veto.
Sanctions against Hezbollah
After last week's Senate vote on the bill, Tehran warned that US lawmakers were waging "psychological war" against Iranian negotiators.
Obama, who had wanted unfettered negotiation powers with Tehran, lifted his veto threat when it became clear the bill had strong support from Democrats.
But the measure ran into difficulty in recent weeks when conservative senators moved to add amendments, including one by 2016 presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio that would require Tehran to publicly acknowledge Israel's right to exist as part of the final agreement.
Such an amendment would likely pass, but Democrats warned it would kill the bill and perhaps prompt Iran to walk away from negotiations.
The amendment was kept off the legislation.
House members sought to send a further message to Tehran Thursday by unanimously approving legislation that urges Obama to increase financial sanctions against Hezbollah, a group backed politically and financially by Iran and which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
"The administration must do more to attack the root of the problem: Iran's support, coordination, arms, and money it provides to terrorist organizations," number two House Republican Kevin McCarthy said.