Republican amendments could derail the bipartisan bill that would allow Congress a vote on any potential agreement with Iran over its nuclear capabilities.
Amendments would require Iran to recognize the state of Israel and release U.S. citizens detained in Iran, according to The New York Times. Another amendment designates the deal a treaty rather than an executive agreement, which does not require congressional approval. Treaties require a 2/3 vote by the Senate in order for ratification.
Republican lawmakers consider any Iran deal a treaty, reports CNN:
“This is clearly a treaty,” Arizona Sen. John McCain told reporters Tuesday. “They can call it a banana, but it’s a treaty.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a bill allowing Congress to vote on any nuclear agreement with Iran in early April, but additional amendments could jeopardize it.
The framework for a final deal was announced between Iran, the U.S., and European partners in early April – maintaining Iran would limit its capability to acquire a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
If a final agreement is reached by the self-imposed deadline of June 30, Congress will have a chance to “review the agreement — and freeze the president’s ability to lift any sanctions while that review is continuing,” reports the NYT.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the committee, succeeded in passing the measure by avoiding partisan amendments. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to a robust amendment process could put the bill at risk, expected to be voted on by the Senate this week.
On Iranian New Year in late March, the White House issued a statement calling for the release of U.S. citizens held by the country.
The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, has been imprisoned in Iran for nine months on charges relating to espionage. Executive Editor Martin Baron said the Iranian government has provided no proof Rezaian engaged in any such activity.
President Barack Obama said he is committed to seeing Rezaian freed at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, yet he is unwilling to link the freeing of U.S. hostages to the terms of the nuclear deal.
Christian pastor Saeed Abedini was jailed in 2012 for setting up Evangelical home churches, considered to be a crime against Iran’s national security. (RELATED: Obama Meets Wife Of Jailed Pastor Saeed Abedini)
Marine veteran Amir Hekmati was arrested in Tehran in 2011 while celebrating the Islamic religious holiday of Ramadan with his family. He was convinced of espionage and “sentenced to death, but the verdict was reversed and he was convicted of the lesser charge of aiding a hostile country, meaning the United States, and sentenced to 10 years,” reports the NYT.