April 26, 2016
Since late 2015, U.S. lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen legislative measures against Iran. Most have yet to pass the House or Senate, and the bills largely target areas outside the scope of the nuclear deal, such as ballistic missiles, terrorism, and human rights. But President Obama has promised to veto legislation – like the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act – that the administration believes could potentially derail the deal.
Congress has long sought to establish greater oversight of the nuclear deal. In May 2015, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by Bob Corker (R-TN) that required Congress to review and vote on the agreement. The deal came to a vote in September 2015. But Congress ultimately failed to block it, as Senate Democrats filibustered a resolution of disapproval and prevented it from coming to a vote. The following is a rundown of Congressional actions on Iran since late 2015.
Amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R.2028)
Status: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) filed the amendment to the energy and water bill on April 25, 2016. On April 27, the Senate voted 50-46 against ending debate on the bill with the amendment, considered by many Democrats to be a "poison pill."
Content: Cotton’s amendment would prohibit the purchase of heavy water from Iran. He proposed the amendment three days after the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would buy 32 metric tonnes of heavy water from Iran. The Islamic Republic is required to reduce its stockpile of heavy water under the nuclear deal, which it can do by selling or disposing of the material.
On April 26, Senator Cotton released the following statement related to the heavy water purchase: "The Obama Administration stated that this purchase is a one-time deal and the United States will not become a repeat customer of Iran's over-production of heavy water. Regrettably, it's become difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to President Obama sidling up to Iran. It seems the president will go to any lengths to protect his nuclear deal. This amendment would simply hold his Administration to its promise by ensuring that taxpayer dollars cannot be used again for the same purpose. We've given the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime enough concessions at the risk of our security; we should not further subsidize its enrichment activity by making repeated purchases of this material."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that “We’ve made clear our commitment to a principle that ideologically motivated policy riders are not appropriate for appropriations bills.” He indicated that President Obama would veto the bill if it were passed with Cotton's amendment.
The U.S. Financial System Protection Act (H.R. 4992)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on April 19, 2016.
Content: The bill codifies regulations around financial transactions involving Iran and restricts the use of the U.S. dollar in facilitating trade with Iran - including both direct dollar transactions and workarounds.
No Dollars for Iran Act (H.R. 4898)
Status: The bill was introduced by Representative David Trott (R-MI) on April 11, 2016 and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. It is cosponsored by Representatives Randy K. Weber (R-TX) and Dan Benishek (R-MI).
Content: The bill prohibits the Department of Treasury from issuing licenses permitting dollar clearing outside of the U.S. for transactions directly or indirectly involving or benefitting the Government of Iran or Iranian persons.
Preventing Iran’s Access to United States Dollars Act of 2016 (S. 2752)
Status: The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), was introduced in the Senate on April 6, 2016 and referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee on the same day. It is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-HN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Shelley Capito (R-WV), and David Perdue (R-GA).
Content: The bill prohibits the Government of Iran or Iranian persons from certain financial transactions involving U.S. dollars, and proposes sanctions in the event that those transactions are facilitated. It specifies that the President cannot issue a license permitting an offshore U.S. dollar clearing system or provide U.S. dollars for any offshore U.S. dollar clearing system for transactions that involve Iran. President Obama has denied having plans to facilitate these kinds of transactions with Iran.
Iran Cyber Sanctions Act of 2016 (S. 2756)
Status: The bill was introduced on April 6, 2016 by Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Content: The bill requires the president to report to Congress any activities conducted by Iranian persons undermining U.S. cybersecurity. In addition, the president would be required to submit the names of these individuals to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals List, which blocks individuals from doing business with U.S. individuals and freezes their assets within U.S. jurisdiction. If the president chooses to not include a name on this list, s/he must report to Congress why the individual was not included.
Iran Financial System Access Limitation Act of 2016 (S. 2757)
Status: The bill was introduced on April 6, 2016 by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Content: The bill prohibits granting Iran access to U.S. dollars. It proposes sanctions for any foreign financial institutions that facilitate such arrangements. It also prohibits the president from issuing licenses to offshore dollar clearing entities that would conduct transactions with Iran in U.S. dollars, and requires the president to block all property or property interests in the U.S. of institutions engaging in the aforementioned behavior. In addition, a U.S. person may not process any transfer of funds to or from Iran in a U-turn transaction.
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2016 by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 11 other Republican Senators. On March 21, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and three other Republican co-sponsors introduced an identical bill in the House.
Content: The bill imposes new sanctions against anyone that knowingly aids Iran’s ballistic missile program, requires new sanctions against entities owned 25 percent or more by Iran’s key ballistic missile organizations, and requires the president to certify that perople listed in U.N. Security Council Resolutions are not engaged in activities related to ballistic missiles. It also imposes sanctions on persons involved in sectors of Iran’s economy that support, directly or indirectly, Iran’s ballistic program.
Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2726)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2016 by Mark Kirk (R-IL) and 15 other Republican Senators. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Content: The bill imposes new sanctions on the IRGC and Mahan Air, codifies restrictions on Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system, and imposes new sanctions on Iran for its human rights abuses.
The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R.3662)
Status: The bill, sponsored by Steve Russell (R-OK) and 20 other Republicans, was introduced in the House on Oct. 1, 2015. The House voted and passed the legislation on Jan. 13, 2016, but Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) nullified the vote since 137 representatives were not present. A second vote was held on February 2, which passed the House with a vote of 246-181. A total of 243 Republicans and three Democrats voted in favor, and 181 Democrats voted against. On February 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Banking Committee.
Content: The legislation prohibits removing sanctions on certain entities until the president confirms that they have no link to ballistic missiles or terrorism. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) supported the legislation, arguing that “This bill is about ensuring that the president keeps his promise.” But Foreign Affairs Committee member Eliot Engel (D-NY), who opposed the nuclear deal, argued that the legislation would instead “establish an impossible standard for the president.” President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, fearing that it could disrupt implementation of the nuclear deal.
IRGC Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2015 (H.R. 3693)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Feb. 12, 2016 by Ted Poe (R-TX).
Content: The bill directs the Department of the Treasury to report to Congres on whether the IRGC should be considered a terrorist organization and whether an organization with IRGC members on the board of directors should be considered an entity controlled by the Iranian government.
North Korea and Iran Sanctions Act (S.2485)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 3, 2016 by John Thune (R-SD) and four other Republican cosponsors.
Content: This bill requires the President to reinstate all sanctions against Iran that were waived or suspended as part of the final nuclear deal if the Director of National Intelligence certifies that Iran has acquired, or is attempting to acquire, nuclear weapons technology from North Korea.
Reaffirming the right for the United States to use all available options, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon (H.Res.600)
Status: Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jospeh Kennedy (D-MA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), and two others introduced the resolution in the House on Feb. 3, 2016.
Content: It reaffirms the right to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, emphasizing that the nuclear deal does not preclude additional sanctions on Iran for terrorism, ballistic missile, or human rights violations.
A bill to prohibit the use of funds to make payments to Iran relating to the settlement of claims brought before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal until Iran has paid certain compensatory damages awarded to United States persons by United States courts (S. 2452)
Status: The bill was introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) on January 20, 2016. It is cosponsored by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), David Perdue (R-GA), and John Thune (R-SD). It was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Content: The bill prevents the United States from making any payment to Iran relating to the settlement of any claim before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, until Iran pays certain compensatory damages awarded by federal or state court judgments relating to international acts of terrorism carried out by Iran.
The Zero Tolerance for Terror Act (H.R.4333), the Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 (H.R.4342), and other actions on ballistic missiles
Status: Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and five other lawmakers introduced the Zero Tolerance for Terror Act in the House on January 6. Kennedy, along with John Delaney (D-MD) and 11 other lawmakers, also introduced the Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act of 2016 on January 7.
Content: Both pieces of legislation called on the U.S. Treasury to impose sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile activities. They were part of a larger push by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to urge President Obama to take action after alleged Iranian ballistic missiles launches in October and November 2015. Ballistic missiles restrictions are not included in the final nuclear deal, but a 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution prohibits Iran from testing ballistic missiles.
“Condemnations of Iran's blatant disregard for its international obligations are not enough,” wrote Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 35 other Republican senators in December 2015. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) organized a similar letter signed by 20 other Democrats. “If there are no consequences for this violation, Iran’s leaders will certainly also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” it said.
New ballistic missile sanctions were originally set to go into effect on Dec. 30, 2015, but the Obama administration delayed them for two weeks. Iranian officials warned that the supreme leader would view new sanctions as a violation of the nuclear deal, but U.S. officials denied that Iran’s defiance played a part in the delay. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that finalizing sanctions “is not something that we would negotiate with the Iranian government.” Behind the scenes, Secretary of State John Kerry was in the midst of negotiating a prisoner swap with Iran that resulted in the release of four Americans. On January 17 – right after the nuclear deal was implemented – the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 individuals and entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
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The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R.158)
Status: Candace Miller (R-MI) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the bill in the House on Jan. 6, 2015. It was amended and passed on Dec. 8, 2015 with a vote of 407-19 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The next day, the bill was received in the Senate.
Content: The bill was proposed by Congress to make it more difficult for terrorists who hold E.U. or other citizenships to enter the United States. Citizens of 38 countries, including many E.U. states, do not need visas to travel to the United States. But the new measure bars citizens of those countries who are also dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan from participating in the program. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said on December 22 that “Our message to them [Iran] is clear: as long as you fuel networks of terror, individuals connected to your country will not be allowed to enter ours without closer scrutiny.”
Iranian officials condemned the bill. “This visa-waiver thing is absurd,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told The New Yorker. “Has anybody in the West been targeted by any Iranian national, anybody of Iranian origin, or anyone travelling to Iran?” Secretary of State John Kerry, however, noted that the Obama administration can waive the visa requirements so as not to “interfere with the legitimate business interest of Iran.”
Although the bill passed the House with a bipartisan majority, some lawmakers opposed the bill on the grounds that it could have negative consequences for journalists and aid workers. Barbara Lee (D-CA) argued that the legislation would “allow for the arbitrary discrimination of individuals based on their nationality.”
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Urging the President and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to submit to Congress the text of all side agreements entered into between the IAEA and Iran with respect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (H.R.553)
Status: Co-sponsored by Ryan Zinke (R-MT) and 30 other representatives, the bill was introduced in the House on Dec. 3, 2015.
Content: The bill requires Congress to receive the text of “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as a condition for the Congress to approve funding for the agency. In July 2015, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi agreed on a road map to resolve “past and present outstanding issues” on Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement – which was not made public – culminated in a final report released in December 2015.
Some U.S. lawmakers have insisted that Congress have access to the full text of the agreement between Iran and the IAEA. “Congress has the constitutional responsibility to control the power of the purse,” Zinke said in December 2015. “If we are expected to foot the bill for these side deals, we should know what measures are included in them.”
Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 (S.2119)
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Oct. 1, 2015, sponsored by Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and seven other Democrats.
Content: The legislation requires the President to report to Congress every 180 days on two topics: Iranian nuclear research and development, and how Iran uses funds received as part of sanctions relief.
Status: The bill was introduced in the Senate on Dec. 18, 2015 by Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 12 other Republicans, and in the House on Jan. 7, 2016 by Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Peter Roskam (R-IL), and two other Republicans.
Content: It requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to submit a report to Congress on the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. It also calls for delaying sanctions relief until 90 days after the report is submitted, or once the DNI, State Department, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense certify that Iran has ceased all military dimensions of its nuclear activities.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Sanctions Implementation and Review Act (H.R.4312)
Status: The bill was introduced on Dec. 18, 2015, by Brad Sherman (D-CA) and five other Democrats.
Content: The legislation proposes amendments to the Iran Threat Reduction and Syrian Human Rights Act of 2012, which would prohibit transactions with foreigners who knowingly engage in deals with the Revolutionary Guards or other sanctioned entities if the property involved is linked to the United States.
Quarantining the Ayatollah's State-Sponsored Aggression and Militancy (QASSAM) Act (H.R.4258)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Dec. 15, 2015 by Peter Roskam (R-IL) and three other Republicans.
Content: It aims to impose sanctions on any entity – either within the United States or owned by an American – if the Revolutionary Guards own at least 20 percent of it.
IRGC Sanctions Act (H.R.4257)
Status: The bill was introduced on Dec. 15, 2015 by Devin Nunes (R-CA) and 19 other Republicans.
Content: It seeks to amend three existing laws to require congressional approval to remove a country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 29, 2015 by Michael McCaul (R-TX) and 13 other lawmakers and in the Senate by Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Content: It calls upon the State Department to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Sept. 9, 2015 by Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and two other Republicans and in the Senate on Sept. 28, 2015 by Pat Toomey (R-PA) and two other Republicans. It passed the House by a vote of 251-173 on Oct. 1, 2015.
Content: It calls for preventing sanctions relief until Iran addresses judgments in the cases of U.S. victims of Iran-backed terror groups.
Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance Act (H.R. 3741)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on Oct. 9, 2015, by Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and nine other cosponsors.
Content: The bill establishes a commission to verify Iran's compliance with the final nuclear deal and assess the verification and safeguards aspects of the agreement.
Iran Sanctions Relief Oversight Act of 2015 (S.1682)
Status: Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bill in the Senate on June 25, 2015, originally pushing to add it as an amendment to the 2016 defense budget. The bill was referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Content: The bill extends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (ISA), which targets Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and human rights violations, through Dec. 31, 2026. The ISA is currently set to expire in December 2016. The bill pitched by Kirk and Menendez has not progressed beyond the Senate Banking Committee, but other lawmakers have also proposed extending ISA. In late January 2016, after Implementation Day, Bob Corker (R-TN) began preparing three pieces of legislation against Iran – one of which was the reauthorization of ISA. Corker argued that renewing ISA is essential for the possibility of “snap back” sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear deal, but the administration has urged Congress to delay renewing the legislation until closer to its expiration date.
State Sanctions Against Iranian Terrorism Act (H.R.4448)
Status: The bill was introduced in the House on March 2, 2015 by Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
Content: The bill amends the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which allows states to limit or prohibit individuals from investing in Iran’s energy sector. The amendment would restrict investment in all business enterprises in Iran, not just those related to the energy sector, and would lower the investment limit from $20 million to $10 million.
This post has been updated.