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House Passes Bill To Let Congress Review Iran Nuclear Deal

  • Cindy Saine

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 13, 2015.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 13, 2015.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed legislation that would let Congress review any potential deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program before sanctions are lifted.

The vote was 400-25, and came one week after the Senate passed the same measure by a vote of 98-1.

Republican leaders in the House decided to move the bill to the floor quickly under a procedure that prohibits amendments and requires a two-thirds majority for passage. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, made a similar decision last week to prevent an amendment requiring Iran to recognize Israel from derailing the bill.

On the House floor Thursday, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican, and Ranking Democratic committee member Eliot Engel said both the Senate bill and the House version were carefully crafted with input from both major parties. They said the bill would provide the necessary oversight from Congress, without hurting the ongoing world powers' negotiations with Tehran.

Lawmakers Disagree on the Deal Taking Shape

Most Democratic lawmakers came to the House floor to praise the president and his administration for their efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon – using diplomacy instead of threats of war. But many Republicans, including Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said the emerging deal is a bad one, granting Iran concession after concession, without getting anything in return.

Some Republicans said the president appears to want a deal at any cost, to boost his legacy on foreign policy. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee said if the president’s legacy includes preventing a potential war with Iran, then that would be a legacy worth having.

Some Democrats, including Representative Keith Ellison said they could not support the Iran oversight bill. Ellison said Congress needs to step back and give the Obama administration the space and time it needs to complete negotiations. Some Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, accuse Republicans of attacking and trying to defeat every measure President Obama supports.

The bill will now go to President Obama, and he is expected to sign it soon.

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only. Under a framework agreement, Tehran would have to allow access to its nuclear facilities to international inspectors. The parties to the talks have agreed to try to finalize an Iran nuclear agreement by the end of June.