Iran Deal Review Bill Passes U.S. Congress, Heads to Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a question during a joint news conference with Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, not pictured, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S. House passed legislation Thursday that would let Congress review any nuclear deal the U.S. reaches with Iran.

The 400-25 vote sends the measure to President Barack Obama. The wide margin for passage was anticipated after Republican leaders decided to hold a separate vote on a bill designed to cripple Hezbollah’s financial network.

Following last week’s 98-1 passage of the Iran measure in the Senate, the House vote on the bill, H.R. 1191, signals a two-thirds majority of congressional support in both chambers that could have overcome a presidential veto. Obama has said he supports the legislation, though he didn’t initially.

“It is fair to say that there are deep bipartisan concerns about where these negotiations are heading,” said Representative Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, before the vote.

Without the Iran review measure, Royce said, “The president can sign a bad deal and we, the United States Congress, are left to read about it in the papers.”

Allowing congressional review means Secretary of State John Kerry, in negotiations with Iran, would “have on his mind now I have to take this to Congress,” Royce said.

Odd Couples

Nineteen Republicans and six Democrats opposed the measure, with political odd couples including some of the House’s most liberal members uniting with Tea Party conservatives to vote against the bill.

One opponent, Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, said the measure ties the president’s hands and “sends the signal to the international community that the U.S. is setting the stage to vote down the final agreement.”

“I don’t believe we should make this deal still-born, in the crib, even before it is about to emerge,” Ellison said

The measure passed in an expedited vote procedure usually used for non-controversial measures.

House Republican leaders decided to fend off potential last-minute issues by pairing the Iran vote with the measure on Hezbollah’s financial network, H.R. 2297, which passed 423-0.

The Iran bill represented a compromise by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the panel’s top Democrat. The deal reduced from 60 days to as few as 30 days the time for Congress to review a final deal with Iran.

June 30 Deadline

A framework agreement with Iran, announced April 2 by the U.S. and five other world powers, would curb the Islamic Republic’s ability to enrich uranium in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Negotiators are working to complete the deal before a June 30 deadline.

There was concern that some House Republicans would push for amendments to the bill similar to efforts that were scuttled in the Senate, such as language requiring Iran to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of any nuclear deal.

The Hezbollah bill’s sponsors include Royce and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina. A version passed 404-0 last year.

The measure calls for the use of “all available diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat the global criminal activities of Hezbollah” and its ability to fund terrorist activities.

Those avenues include sanctioning Hezbollah’s foreign financial assets and going after its international narcotics-trafficking rings.

The bill directs the administration to report to Congress within about four months on whether Hezbollah meets the criteria of a transnational criminal organization and a drug kingpin. That would give U.S. law enforcement another tool to for cracking down on Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.

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