The Biden administration may be going back on a promise to have any Iran nuclear agreement approved by Congress — and evading the law in the process, according to an opinion piece published Monday at The Hill.
State Department Special Representative for Iran Rob Malley in May vowed to give any prospective agreement with Iran to Congress for review as required by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA.)
The act says that any agreement with Iran having to do with its nuclear program must be sent by the president in full to Congress within five days. It also prescribes the procedures Congress must go through for review and the expedited voting process if it chooses to do so.
But the authors of the Hill piece, Matthew Zweig and Gabriel Noronha, who have national security and foreign policy backgrounds, say that the Biden White House may be hoping to avoid a congressional vote "by claiming that it is merely returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), which went through the INARA review process in 2015."
Though they are submitting the text of the agreement for review, the administration might argue, Congress does not need to vote on it again.
"Democratic leadership in Congress may be tempted to indulge in such an argument and use their majority positions to avoid a tough vote as the midterms approach," they write, adding, "That would be a dereliction of Congress' important oversight role."
The INARA was written with the idea that the president might attempt "chicanery," the authors note, pointing out that the law was passed in 2015 while the JCPOA was in the final stages of talks.
"Once the Obama administration made clear its intent to circumvent Congress and not submit the agreement as a treaty, lawmakers of both parties demanded a say, noting the scale of U.S. commitments under the deal," they write. "An overwhelming majority of Congress — 98 senators and 400 House members — ultimately voted to pass INARA, thereby ensuring their ability to review the agreement. Crucially, Congress took pains to define the term 'agreement' broadly to prevent the Obama administration from circumventing lawmakers."
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday threw cold water on a new deal in the near future, but according to The Hill, the apparent working terms of the new agreement are reported to involve major amendments to the 2015 JCPOA that was dissolved by then-President Donald Trump more than four years ago.
"From a statutory point of view, reentering a substantially amended agreement effectively amounts to 'reaching an agreement' under INARA, thereby triggering the law's transmittal and review requirements," according to the Hill authors.
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