Two actions were undertaken on Thursday May 7 in the US Senate and House of Representatives which will have an impact on the multilateral nuclear negotiations between Iran and the world powers. By a vote of 98 to 1 (with 1 abstention), the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that gives the Congress oversight on any comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. Meanwhile, 150 House Democrats (145 voting members and 5 non-voting members), signed a letter of support for the President’s diplomatic effort to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The nuclear negotiations will continue until the June 30 deadline toward a comprehensive deal.
The Senate bill would require that the administration submit to Congress the text of a final accord, including classified material, for consideration and a vote to accept or reject the nuclear deal. It also halts any lifting of sanctions during the 30-day congressional review, and allows for a vote to permit or forbid the lifting of congressionally imposed sanctions. This bill has been significantly watered down since it was initially proposed on February 27, 2015. The Senate bill is also supportive of the ongoing negotiations and raises no specific objection to the “understanding” reached in Lausanne on April 2, 2015 . The Senate also chose not to include an amendment demanding that Iran recognize Israel as part of the nuclear deal.
In the lower house, the letter signed by 145 voting Democrats (just over one-third of the House) is important not only because it demonstrates that the President still has support among his party for his diplomatic initiative, but also that he will likely be able to sustain a presidential veto, assuming that these Congressmen will also support the final deal when it comes to a vote. If the nuclear deal is finalized and the Congress votes to reject the deal, the President will retain the power to veto it. At that point, he needs at least one-third of either the Senate or the House to sustain his veto. While a contingent of Democrats can uphold the President’s veto should he employ it, the American Iranian Council believes that a sustainable solution to the nuclear dispute requires bipartisan support.
Given the level of mistrust between the US and Iran, the Senate’s actions are ultimately a hindrance to an amicable resolution to the nuclear dispute. The AIC has long maintained that the core issue of mistrust must be dealt with and the Congress has a major role to play in this regard. It is our hope that a solution to the nuclear dispute is reached and that it is used to pivot toward negotiations on other matters standing between the US and Iran for an ultimate comprehensive improvement in relations.
The American Iranian Council