Senate misses 60 day window to reimpose Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced with great fanfare that he was decertifying the nuclear deal with Iran on October 13. Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), both the Senate and House had a special 60 day period to reimpose nuclear sanctions against Iran. On the Senate side, under this special provision, only a simple majority was required with 51 Senators. However, the 60 day window has passed with the legislative branch unable to snap back new sanctions against Tehran

“I believe frankly that we are in a situation where the President himself and the executive branch can take action,” Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) told Jewish Insider on Tuesday. The Wyoming lawmaker acknowledged that the Senate has been “slow” in implementing new financial penalties. With the difficulties now in reimposing nuclear sanctions requiring the support of 60 Senators, Cheney added, “The Senate rules are creating a roadblock in a whole range of areas and the last thing we have got to do on the House side is have those Senate rules restrain what we do. We ought to do what we think is right and then if the Senate is not able to impose the kind of sanctions or produce the kind of reforms we know are necessary, then they have to explain that to the American people.”

At the same time, Congress still has the ability to reimpose nuclear sanctions against Iran after the two month window but the path will be more difficult. In the Senate, the vote requires support from 60 Senators through regular order allowing Democrats to filibuster. After the 60 day timetable, Republicans need the backing of at least eight Democratic Senators to advance sanctions legislation.

In his October speech blasting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Trump said,  “I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.” The White House specifically cited the sunset provisions under which certain limitations on Iran’s nuclear program will expire 10 years after the deal was signed. “In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as President at any time.” Trump emphasized.

Democrats were pleased that the 2015 nuclear agreement will remain intact for now. Rep. Pramila Jaypal (D-WA) explained that after the 60 day window has closed, “The message is we think that there are things that are working about the Iran deal and we don’t want to overturn it.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) noted, “Even people who had qualms about the agreement now see its value. It’s not just Democrats, it’s Republicans that control this place.” While some Democrats such as Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) voted against the agreement two years ago, they urged the White House to stay in the agreement citing the IAEA’s endorsement of Iran’s compliance.

On October 23, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-TN) noted, “I don’t have any timetable. We’ll get it passed when it’s ready.” Working with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), the Tennessee lawmaker added,  “This is something we hope to pass with 80-85 votes.”

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