The Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, allows trade, energy, defense and banking industry sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile tests. It expires on December 31, and it’s one of the major pieces of unfinished business lawmakers face after the Nov. 8 elections.
The Congressional aides say that Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Representative Ed Royce, is expected to introduce the 10-year renewal as soon as Congress returns on November 14.
They also say an unchanged renewal is likely to pass the House, but its fate in the Senate is less certain. A White House spokesman declined to say whether President Barack Obama would sign it into law.
Republican controlled majorities in both the House and Senate opposed the international nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions, as did as every Republican in Congress. They’ve tried repeatedly to pass legislation to clamp down on Iran, and accused President Obama of having conceded too much to Tehran in the nuclear talks.
Some Senate Republicans are trying to build support for legislation that would renew the ISA, but would also do more to punish individual Iranians and businesses over the country’s ballistic missile tests and what many view as its support for terrorism.
Some senators are pushing for a new law to eliminate the president’s right to waive sanctions.
According to the Reuter’s report, the Obama administration requested Congress to hold off on renewing the ISA. The administration says it has enough power to reimpose economic sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, even if it expires.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest wouldn’t say how President Obama would respond if the bill passed both houses of Congress and reached his desk. “I won’t prejudge at this point whether or not the president would sign that bill,” Earnest told reporters. “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.
White House opposition to the bill may generate resistance from Democrats in the Senate, making it difficult to garner the 60 votes needed to move ahead, as Republicans hold only 54 seats in the 100-member chamber.
Renewing the sanctions bill will also have an effect in Iran, since Iranian officials are already complaining that remaining U.S. sanctions have frightened away trade and robbed it of the benefits promised under the nuclear deal.
Reuters reports that a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide said “addressing the ISA before it expires is a ‘top priority’ for Royce.”
“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,” Royce said in a statement sent to Reuters. “That’s why I’ll be introducing a bipartisan, long-term extension of these important sanctions,” he said.