Sen. Joe Manchin III demanded Tuesday that President Biden keep sanctions in place on Iran as long as Tehran continues to fund terrorism aimed at the U.S. and its citizens.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, sent a letter to the State Department urging a congressional briefing on efforts to fashion a new nuclear deal with Iran. In particular, Mr. Manchin expressed concern the administration would remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country halting its nuclear program.
“While I support President Biden’s commitment to reengaging the government of Iran in diplomacy,” he wrote, “we should not reward Iran with sanctions relief before they demonstrate verifiable efforts towards curbing their malign influence holistically, including their nuclear ambitions, terrorism financing and dual-use weapons development.”
The White House is reportedly mulling a renewed version of the nuclear deal that former President Barack Obama negotiated with the belligerent Middle Eastern power in 2015. That deal, which was never approved by Congress, gave Iran billions in economic aid in exchange for putting its nuclear weapons program on hold for 15 years.
Former President Donald Trump exited the deal upon taking office in 2017 to widespread Republican applause. Since winning the 2020 election, Mr. Biden has signaled a willingness to renegotiate the agreement.
Rumors of an updated agreement have only grown in recent weeks as Russia invaded Ukraine, scrambling energy markets. To help solidify a deal and boost U.S. access to Iranian oil, Mr. Biden is reportedly pledging to remove Trump-era sanctions that were imposed on the county for funding terrorism.
Mr. Manchin said that such a move would be disastrous for U.S. security interests.
“We must not be shortsighted in the use of sanctions relief to mitigate our present energy challenges,” he wrote. “Sanctions are our primary leverage to facilitate agreements on halting malign Iranian actions … which [have] resulted in thousands of deaths, including the deaths of U.S. service members.”
Last month, Senate Republicans warned the White House that they would move to block any new deal if sanctions were removed on Iran without proof it was ready to end its support for global terrorism.
“If press reports of the deal are accurate, the president and Democrats on Capitol Hill surely understand that it will not be accepted widely or quietly,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “If the president seeks to remove sanctions on Iran, there will be votes.”
Such an effort would face long odds of killing the deal outright, however, because of antiquated congressional rules.
Since any deal with Iran is unlikely to be submitted to Congress as a treaty, which requires a two-thirds Senate vote ratification, Republicans would have to marshal only a simple majority in both chambers behind a resolution of disapproval. While such a resolution could potentially pass, it could then be vetoed by Mr. Biden, at which point Republicans would need to secure a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to overturn it.
Such a result will be difficult to attain, given the polarized nature of Congress and the fact that Democrats hold narrow majorities in each chamber until at least January 2023.
• Haris Alic can be reached at email@example.com.
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