Guide to Congressional Action on Iran Deal

June 26, 2015

The Congressional Research Service has released a report detailing the procedures related to a nuclear agreement with Iran. It covers the review period created by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in May. The following are key excerpts from the brief.

Period for Congressional Review of an Agreement
The statute provides that in relation to an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program:
• Not later than five calendar days after reaching an agreement, the President is to transmit specified materials and certifications to (1) the Senate Committees on Finance; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Intelligence; and Foreign Relations; (2) the House Committees on Ways and Means; Financial Services; Intelligence; and Foreign Affairs; and (3) the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the Speaker and majority and minority leaders of the House.
• Following transmittal, Congress would have a review period of 30 calendar days, unless the materials are transmitted between July 10 and September 7, 2015, in which case the review period is 60 calendar days. The 60-day period appears intended to ensure adequate opportunity for Congress to act if a 30-day period would overlap with the August congressional recess.
Agreements transmitted after September 7, 2015, would be subject to the 30-day review period.
• During the review period, the President is precluded from using waiver authority to provide additional sanction relief to Iran beyond that already provided under an interim nuclear agreement with Iran (“Joint Plan of Action” or JPA).
• During the review period, Congress may agree to a joint resolution of disapproval stating that Congress “does not favor the agreement.” The statute does not provide any special procedural mechanisms for consideration of such a resolution; it would be subject to regular procedures in each chamber8 and would also be subject to presidential veto.
• If Congress agrees to a disapproval resolution, the review period is extended 12 calendar days following the date of passage (roughly covering the period in which the President may issue a veto). If the President vetoes the disapproval resolution, the review period extends for 10 calendar days beyond the veto date (presumably to allow Congress time to take actions to override the veto).
If a joint resolution of disapproval were to be enacted (potentially requiring an override of a presidential veto in both chambers), any sanctions relief for Iran would cease (including any provided by the President under JPA waiver authority). The resolution would not invalidate the agreement itself but would affect only the possibility of presidential sanctions relief to Iran; nevertheless, precluding the President from providing such relief would almost certainly result in a dissolution of the agreement by Iran.
•  Alternatively, Congress could agree to a joint resolution of approval during the review period, which would, upon enactment, allow the President to waive sanctions, apparently even if the review period had not yet elapsed.
•  If Congress does not agree to any resolution approving or disapproving the agreement, the President may waive sanctions after the (30- or 60-day) review period has expired.
Legislation to Reinstate Waived Sanctions
In addition, the statute provides that in the absence of certain certifications of Iran compliance after congressional review, legislation that would reinstate sanctions waived by the President may be considered pursuant to specified expedited congressional procedures. Specifically:
•  For each 90-day period after the congressional review period described
above, the President must certify certain elements of compliance with the
agreement by Iran and submit such certification to the specified
congressional committees and leadership (listed above).
Click here for the full report.