Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Any deal on Iran’s nuclear program would affect generations to come, which is why it was troubling to watch President Obama and his deputies try to shut out the public and Congress from having a say in this consequential decision.
Time and again, the administration suggested that a vote in Congress would scuttle any nuclear agreement and leave war with Iran as the only alternative.
This week, Democrats and Republicans pushed back, forcing the administration to bow to the inevitable role of Congress in this process. With a unanimous vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee affirmed that the American people — through their elected representatives — must be given a voice on what is one of the greatest geopolitical issues of our time.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act will allow Congress to weigh in after an agreement is reached to ensure that any deal with Iran is truly strong enough to eliminate the threat of the regime’s nuclear program.
This bipartisan bill accomplishes three things.
First, it will ensure transparency. The bill requires the president to submit to Congress the details and all related documents regarding any final deal with Iran. The administration has confirmed that it will seek a resolution at the U.N. Security Council endorsing a final agreement. If the Security Council can pass judgment on the validity of an agreement, then surely the U.S. Congress should do so as well.
Second, it will provide oversight and allow lawmakers time to review all parts of an agreement before the president could suspend the sanctions on Iran that Congress put in place.
Beginning in 2010, congressional Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly passed a series of strong sanctions that crushed the Iranian economy and eventually brought Iran to the negotiating table. These are many of the sanctions that Iran desperately wants lifted.
Our bill will make sure the president could not waive these sanctions before Congress has the chance to first review a deal and, if it chooses, vote on whether to approve or disapprove it. The bill gives Congress up to 52 days to act. If lawmakers vote to disapprove a final deal, the president would be prohibited from suspending the congressionally mandated sanctions.
Third, our legislation helps hold Iran accountable. The president will be required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the agreement. Should Iran violate the terms, the bill enables Congress to snap its sanctions back into place. This would give the administration an essential tool to help ensure that any final deal can be enforced. Additionally, given Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorism, the bill includes strong requirements for the president to report to Congress on any Iranian acts of direct or indirect support of terrorism against Americans or our allies.
The preliminary framework agreed to earlier this month by the major world powers and Iran already has caused people to declare themselves supporters or critics of a potential long-term deal, but many details are unresolved and important decisions have yet to be made. Our legislation neither prejudges nor prevents the president from reaching a deal with Iran that is strong, verifiable and enforceable.
We have worked hard to keep our bill bipartisan and focused on the appropriate role for Congress — passing judgment on suspending the sanctions that Congress created. The president would retain authority over U.S. sanctions implemented through executive order, allowing the administration to implement any final agreement in phases, as it has insisted, while assessing Iranian compliance and giving Congress time to consider the agreement.
It is clear that Iran and the United States have different views of what the political framework entails, particularly regarding the pace of the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran. As the major world powers work toward a final agreement, we must remain clear-eyed regarding Iran’s continued resistance to concessions, long history of covert nuclear weapons-related activities, support of terrorism and role in destabilizing the region. Now is the time to tie any future relief of statutory sanctions with a formal process for Congress to assess a final accord.
A nuclear-armed Iran would lead to a less safe and secure world, which is why the stakes are so high in the pursuit of a strong agreement that is fully enforceable and verifiable and will keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. With Congress serving as a backstop, this approach can help empower our negotiators and lead to a better result in the talks and a stronger outcome for our national security.
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