US House to vote on Iran Sanctions Act renewal as soon as November

The Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, which expires on Dec. 31, allows trade, energy, defense and banking industry sanctions over Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missile tests.

October 25, 2016 22:40
2 minute read.
iran khamenei

A MILITARY truck carrying a missile and a picture of Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei drives in a parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war in Tehran. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON - The Republican leaders of the US House of Representatives plan a vote as soon as mid-November on a 10-year reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act, congressional aides told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, which expires on Dec. 31, allows trade, energy, defense and banking industry sanctions over Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missile tests.

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Its fate is one of the major pieces of unfinished business facing lawmakers when they return to Washington on Nov. 14 for the first time after the Nov. 8 elections.

Congressional aides said a "clean" renewal, meaning unchanged from the current legislation, was likely to pass the House. Its fate in the Senate was less certain.

Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate, and every Republican in Congress opposed last year's international nuclear deal, in which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

Some Senate Republicans want more than a clean renewal. They are trying to build support for more restrictive legislation that would renew the ISA and do more to punish individual Iranians and businesses over the country's ballistic missile tests and what they see as its support for terrorism.

Some senators have also pushed for a law that would eliminate the president's right to waive sanctions for security reasons.

White House concerns about the bill could generate resistance from Democrats in the Senate, making it more difficult for any legislation to garner the 60 votes needed to move ahead.

Because Republicans hold only 54 seats in the 100-member chamber, they would need Democratic support to move any bill.

President Barack Obama's administration had asked Congress to hold off on renewing the ISA, saying it has enough power to reimpose economic sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear agreement even if it expires.

Renewing the sanctions bill could also increase frustrations in Iran. Iranian officials have been complaining for months that remaining US sanctions have frightened away trade partners and robbed it of too many benefits it was promised under the nuclear deal.

When asked to comment on the House vote, a senior Obama administration official said on Tuesday the White House remains focused on ensuring Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA. The official reiterated the White House's position that the ISA's expiration would not affect the administration's ability to continue to issue sanctions designations as warranted.

"We remain committed to working with Congress, however, and are willing to discuss how to further foreign policy priorities in a manner that does not jeopardize JCPOA implementation," the official said.

A House Foreign Affairs Committee aide said addressing the ISA before it expires is a "top priority" for the committee's Republican chairman, Representative Ed Royce. The foreign affairs panel oversees sanctions legislation in the House.

A House Republican leadership aide could not confirm the vote's timing. He said only that the chamber was "likely" to consider a 10-year reauthorization when it returns to Washington.

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