Thirty-three Republicans in the United States Senate have pledged to thwart a new Iran nuclear deal if the administration of President Joe Biden does not present its terms to Congress for approval.
The latest threat from Republicans, who widely opposed the initial 2015 deal and its revival, came on Monday, a day before talks between Iran and other signatories to the accord were set to resume in Vienna. The US is participating indirectly in the negotiations, which all sides have indicated could be reaching an endgame.
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A letter led by Senator Ted Cruz said the legislators would use “the full range of options and leverage available” to ensure that the government adhered to US laws governing any new accord with Iran.
The 2015 deal, from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, lifted sanctions in return for Tehran curtailing its nuclear programme.
The Senators argued an agreement would be of “such gravity for US national security” that it would by definition be a treaty requiring the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate.
They noted that a 2015 law passed before the completion of the initial nuclear deal requires that any new “agreement” related to Iran’s nuclear programme to be transmitted to Congress for a 60-day review period during which Congress could pass a joint resolution of disapproval that would essentially prevent the deal from going into effect.
Republicans had previously sought to block the 2015 deal, reached under former President Barack Obama, with a resolution, however, Democrats used a mechanism known as the filibuster to block its passage.
Democrats currently have a razor-thin majority in the US Senate, which is controlled 50-50 between the two parties. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, casts tie-breaking votes.
However, the party risks losing control of the chamber, as well as the US House of Representatives, in midterm elections in November.
In the letter, the Republican Senators also predicted their party’s victory in the 2024 presidential election, saying that any deal that fell short of a Senate-ratified treaty would “likely be torn up in the early days of the next presidential administration”.
Last week, a Biden administration official said the US had restored a sanctions waiver to Tehran, which allowed Russian, Chinese and European companies to carry out non-proliferation work at Iranian nuclear sites and had been rescinded by the Trump administration in May 2020.
The official said the waiver was needed to allow for technical discussions that were key to the continuing talks.