Senate joins House in extending Iran sanctions, handing Trump a tool to pull out of nuclear deal


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in extending Iran sanctions for a decade, preserving a tool should President-elect Donald Trump seek to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

The Senate approved the extension Thursday by a 99-0 vote. The House overwhelmingly extended the sanctions last month. The sanctions were due to lapse Dec. 31.

The outgoing Obama administration was agnostic about whether to extend the sanctions, and President Barack Obama has not signaled that he would veto it. In the unlikely event that he did, the majorities in favor of the extension suggest that Congress would override his veto.

The bills keep intact the waivers that Obama has used to relieve sanctions on Iran under last year’s deal between six major powers and Iran, which exchanged the easing of sanctions for a nuclear rollback.

Trump has vowed to revisit the deal, which he says is a bad one, but has not outright said he would pull out of it. Should he decide to pull out, he has a number of means to do so, including executive actions, but extending the sanctions offers him the least obtrusive way to pull out simply by not exercising the presidential waiver written into the bill.

“These are the very sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table, and their extension is a key element in holding Iran accountable,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who had led the effort to extend existing sanctions but without the further restrictions that some Republicans had sought and Obama administration officials had warned could scuttle the deal.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which also had pressed for an extension of the existing sanctions, praised the Senate.

“Congress’ decisive action signals American determination to enforce the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and re-impose currently waived sanctions if Iran violates the deal,” AIPAC said in a statement.

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