Supported so far by 33 senators, legislation comes amid growing concern the Biden Administration will use unwritten informal agreements to circumvent requirement for congressional review under U.S. law
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees, along with Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today led their colleagues in reintroducing the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act (ISRRA), a bill to ensure that the President submits any sanctions relief relating to Iran for congressional review. The legislation would provide a backstop if the Executive Branch attempts to evade the legal requirements for congressional review of any agreement related to Iran’s nuclear program contained in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (Public Law 114-17).
“As Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime continues to pursue nuclear weapons to harm Americans and our regional partners and allies, it is critical to provide insurance if President Biden keeps trying to run around Congress and relieve sanctions on Iran,” said Senator Hagerty. “My legislation will make it abundantly clear to the Biden Administration that any agreement made with Iran that involves sanctions relief must be submitted for Congressional review.”
“As the Biden Administration contemplates another enormous cash windfall to the Iranian regime in exchange for dubious non-proliferation promises, it is vitally important that Congress has a voice in any sanctions relief,” said Senator Risch. “Iran remains actively engaged in supporting Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, continues to attack our troops and diplomats – most recently killing an American in March, plots assassination attempts against former U.S. officials, and violently quashes protests inside Iran. Congress has an obligation to ensure that sanctions relief does not fund these appalling activities.”
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Roger Wicker, (R-MS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), John Thune (R-SD), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Barrasso (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Todd Young (R-IN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), Roger Marshall (R-KS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Katie Britt (R-AL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
Full text of the legislation can be found here.
- Hagerty first introduced the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act in April 2021 as the Biden Administration announced that it was prepared to lift sanctions on Iran as part of its effort to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
- The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA)—which passed the Senate by a 99-1 vote in 2015—requires the President to submit any “agreement with Iran relating to the nuclear program of Iran” for congressional review, including a potential vote in each chamber on a joint resolution of disapproval.
- Recent news reports, however, have suggested that the Biden Administration may pursue “an informal understanding with Iran” because “[a]ny formal agreement or even a less formal understanding, which appears far more likely, could force a review in Congress, where Republicans and some Democrats strongly oppose a nuclear deal with Iran.”
- At a recent event hosted by a non-governmental organization and posted on social media, Tess Bridgeman—who served as Deputy Legal Adviser to the National Security Council from 2014 to 2017—explained the Executive Branch’s apparent approach. “With elections coming up, we are not going to see the Administration do anything that will require a vote in Congress, so I think it is important to keep in mind as we propose alternatives that they be in that realm of discretionary unilateral gestures,” Bridgeman said, adding: “Something that is written down on a piece of paper for all sides to try to implement is a recipe for Congress making it impossible.”
- ISRRA draws on the precedent found in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, Public Law 115-44). Section 216 of CAATSA authorizes congressional review—including a potential vote in each chamber on a joint resolution of disapproval—of certain actions relating to sanctions imposed with respect to the Russian Federation.
- ISRRA applies the same standard of congressional review procedures described in Section 216 of CAATSA to certain actions relating to sanctions imposed with respect to Iran. In other words, ISRRA preserves and protects the role of Congress if the Executive Branch, under any Administration, attempts to circumvent INARA, including by using an unwritten agreement that includes sanctions relief relating to Iran.