According to an exclusive report by Reuters, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives is planning a vote to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) during a 10-year period which it could enact as early as mid-November, according to congressional aides.
The Iran Sanctions Act, which is set to expire on Dec. 31., permits sanctions against Iran in the trade, defense, banking, and energy industries and was enacted due to Iran’s nuclear program and its ballistic missile tests.
The vote would arrive roughly 16 months after the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for an end to Iran’s quest to obtain weapons-grade enriched uranium. Because the Iran deal is a cornerstone of President Obama’s foreign policy legacy, such a vote by the House would pit them against the White House and possibly the Senate to pass such a bill.
After the November 8 U.S. presidential elections, the House of Representatives will re-convene on November 14 to address any remaining legislation before the end of the year. The ISA’s fate is one of the key issues facing the House. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and U.S. Representative Ed Royce, a leading House Republican, is expected to introduce the renewal plan as soon as Congress re-convenes.
“The Iran Sanctions Act was enacted to curb Tehran’s support for terrorism and its very dangerous weapons proliferation. It should remain in place until the regime stops exporting terror and threatening us and our allies with deadly weapons,” said a statement sent to Reuters by Mr. Royce. “That’s why I’ll be introducing a bipartisan, long-term extension of these important sanctions.”
Congressional aides said that an unchanged renewal of the ISA would be likely to pass the House, which, like the Senate, is controlled by Republicans. It would then face complications in the Senate and the White House. Of the Senate’s 100 members, 54 are Republicans, meaning they would need the support of Democrats to send the bill to the White House. The high likelihood that the Obama administration will not support the bill would likely cause Senate Democrats to oppose it.
Some Senate Republicans, however, seek an expanded piece of legislation that would allow for the punishment of individual Iranian citizens and businesses for their role in Iran’s ballistic missile tests and for what they consider its support for terrorism. Some have also sought the creation of a law that would take away the president’s right to waive sanctions for security reasons.
House Republicans voted unanimously against the Iran deal in 2015; they have since critiqued Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for taking too conciliatory an attitude towards Tehran.
The Obama administration requested of Congress that it hold off on renewing the ISA because the executive branch reserves the right to impose economic sanctions on Iran if it fails to comply with the terms of the nuclear agreement.
“I won’t prejudge at this point whether or not the president would sign that bill,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest to reporters in Los Angeles about the possibility of the bill passing both houses of Congress and reaching the White House.
“The president and the Treasury Department retain significant sanctions authority that already has been used to impose costs on Iran for their flagrant violation of their international obligations,” he said.
The ongoing sanctions bill has frustrated Iran, who have complained that the ISA has scared off potential trade partners and prevented it from enjoying the benefits it was promised during negotiations.