The House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation that would impose new sanctions on Tehran over their development of ballistic missiles on the same day the White House celebrated the one-year anniversary of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Known as the Iran Accountability Act, the bill passed by a 246-179 vote along mostly-partisan lines, as the Democrats argued that it would undermine the international accord and Congress’s traditionally bipartisan approach to Iran.
Only eight Democratic lawmakers voted in favor.
The bill, introduced by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, imposes new sanctions on Iran and any country that supports Iran’s continued development and testing of its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and ongoing violations of human rights.
New York Congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, faulted the Republican leadership for bringing the bill to the floor without going through the standard committee process and without any input from Democrats. “Congress could speak with a unified voice on these issues, but not with the bill we’re considering today,” said Engel, who voted against the nuclear agreement. “This isn’t a serious bill. It would force the United States to violate our obligations under the nuclear deal.”
“By not acting in a bipartisan manner, we are missing the opportunity to send an important message to Iran of our steadfast resolve in holding it accountable both to their commitments under the JCPOA and under applicable U.S. law and U.N. resolutions,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said in a speech on the floor. “We need to remember that it was toughness, born from bipartisan unity, that brought Iran to the table in the first place. That, again, is what will be required to ensure its full compliance.”
Hoyer called on McCarthy to bring forward a clean bill to reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act, which is set to expire on December 26. He also urged the Republican leadership to work together on a bipartisan bill to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile efforts.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) pushed back against the claim that the bill would undermine the Iran deal. “When he announced his nuclear deal one year ago, President Obama promised to keep pressuring Iran on terrorism, human rights and ballistic missiles. Sadly, his actions have not matched his words,” said Royce. “These two bills are about holding Iran accountable. The regime has no business gaining access to the U.S. dollar. It cannot get a free pass to continue slaughtering innocent people, and grow its stockpile of illegal missiles.”
Earlier Thursday, President Obama issued a statement to mark a year to the landmark nuclear agreement. “Over the last year, the Iran Deal has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, avoiding further conflict and making us safer,” Obama said. “IAEA reports have confirmed that Iran is complying with its commitments. As a result, all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon remain closed, and Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months to about a year.”
The presidential candidates also chimed in. “One year in, the #IranDeal has put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program. Strong, principled diplomacy can work. Effective enforcement is key,” Hillary Clinton tweeted with her signature.
Donald Trump, appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, suggested criticized the deal as “the worst deal that I’ve ever seen – I’m not talking about between countries, I’m talking about any kind of a deal.”
Without going into specifics, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said that “in a form” the deal is going “to end up being scrapped” if he’s elected as president in the fall.