WASHINGTON – Fewer than 24 hours after Iran's detention and release of U.S. sailors, the House approved GOP-backed legislation that amplifies Republican distrust of Tehran and would give Congress greater oversight of the landmark nuclear agreement.
Lawmakers voted 191-106 Wednesday to approve the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act, spurning a veto threat from President Obama. The vote count fell well short of the number needed to override a veto: Speaker Paul Ryan, determined to keep the House on schedule, had the vote gaveled to a close even though 137 lawmakers hadn't voted.
Faced with frustrated members, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., later "vacated" the vote — essentially rendering it null and void — and scheduled another one for Jan. 26, when House Republican will almost certainly approve the legislation for a second time.
By that time, it may be too late for the legislation to have the impact its backers envisioned. The House bill would bar the removal of certain individuals and foreign financial institutions on a restricted list kept by the Treasury Department until the president certifies to Congress that they weren't involved in Iran's ballistic missiles program or in terrorist activities.
Yet the U.S. is poised to begin lifting sanctions against Iran as Tehran fulfills its obligations under the July deal. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Iran will likely be in compliance within days. The White House said the bill could cause "the collapse" of the agreement.
The accord, forged by the U.S. and Iran and signed by five other nations, commits Tehran to cutting back over more than a decade on nuclear technologies that could be used for making weapons.
In exchange, Iran will have access to $100 billion in previously frozen assets and return to the oil market.
Republicans have said that sanctions relief will give Iran cash to fund terrorism.
The legislation targets more than 50 individuals and entities included in an attachment to the nuclear deal that also are on a Treasury Department list that freezes assets they have in the U.S. and generally prohibits anyone in the U.S. from doing business with them.
The White House would be barred from taking them off the list unless it assures Congress they have not "facilitated a significant transaction" for Iran's Revolutionary Guard.