December 11, 2009

Congress Votes on New Iran Sanctions Next Week

Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote next Tuesday on H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA).  The bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), is expected to pass easily.

IRPSA would expand unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions on companies that export refined petroleum to Iran or that help develop Iran’s refining industry. The bill is set to be considered on the suspension calendar, a House procedure that allows for no amendments and limited debate usually reserved for non-controversial measures.

Separate from the House’s measure, the Senate is moving forward with its own sanctions legislation. This past Monday, the Senate placed S.3445, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, on a fast-track toward passage.  The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), codifies into law the embargo on Iran.  Up to now, the American embargo on Iran has been rooted in Presidential Executive Orders, and the President has maintained the authority to remove sanctions as he sees fit.  If passed, the bill would remove the President’s flexibility to lift sanctions without certifying to Congress that Iran has abandoned any pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missile technology.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) brought Sen. Dodd’s bill up on special Senate procedure–called the “hotline”-which provides for legislation to be brought to the floor without debate, without amendment, and without a roll-call vote, to be approved by unanimous consent. The measure would be adopted automatically, unless a single senator objects and puts a hold on the bill.
Both sanctions bills are being considered as the P-5+1 has experienced setbacks in its efforts to engage diplomatically with Iran. The Iranians have yet to submit an official written response to the nuclear proposal offered in October. 
President Obama has imposed a deadline of December 31 for Iran to come back to the table and respond to the nuclear deal directly in its current condition. Beyond that date, the administration has signaled it will seek new punitive measures against Iran, including a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions.
This week, EU governments imposed their own seven-week deadline for Iran to provide assurances that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, or else face tougher sanctions after January.  EU foreign ministers will consider new measures against Iran at an upcoming January 25-26 meeting.




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