US Congress’ Real Power on a US-Iran Nuclear Deal

Some believe US Congress will be able to block a possible nuclear deal with Iran. It likely can’t

by Patty Culhane –

capital building

If Congress passes a resolution of disapproval and the president vetoes it, he simply has to wait 10 more days to waive sanctions

There is a sizeable number of people in Washington who have no idea what they are talking about.

You could probably say that about a whole host of issues, but this time let us focus on the Iran sanctions bill.

I keep hearing politicians and reporters say that the bill that is being debated would give the US Congress oversight on any potential deal with Iran.

There is one problem with that, it doesn’t. The implication is that if the US and its negotiating partners come up with a final agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, the US Congress will be able to give the deal a thumbs up or thumbs down vote. They can’t.

What the bill would do if it becomes law is delay President Obama from waiving sanctions. Congress gets 30 days to consider the agreement.

If Congress passes a resolution of disapproval and the president vetoes it, he simply has to wait 10 more days to waive sanctions.

There is the possibility that Congress can get the two thirds vote needed to override the veto but that is by no means certain.

Under this latest measure, and I know this because I read it, it spells it out pretty clearly.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed as:

  • modifying the President’s authority to negotiate, enter into, or implement executive agreements “

Congress will have to act to permanently remove sanctions, but they’ve always had that authority.

So to be clear, because I think the politicians have purposefully tried to make this sound more dramatic than it actually is, this isn’t a death knell for any potential deal.

Here is what will happen if the negotiators come to a final agreement. The US Congress will have a heated debate, we will hear plenty from the war mongers.

Keep in mind we just had a junior US Senator boldly make the prediction that bombing nuclear sites in Iran would only take a couple of days and that it would be nothing like the Iraq war.

Someone on his staff might want to tell the Senator that the other side gets a vote in how that turns out.

In the end, the president will be able to tell Americans the deal is done, the world is going to be doing business with Iran.

The US Congress will only be able to weigh in on whether the US is isolated, not whether Iran will be.


Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera