House sends Iran review bill to Obama
© Greg Nash

The House on Thursday passed legislation requiring congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran, handing a victory to critics of the talks who demanded that Congress have an oversight role.

Passage came easily on a vote of 400-25. Only six Democrats and 19 Republicans opposed the measure.

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The carefully negotiated bill, which President Obama is expected to sign, gives Congress the power to approve or disapprove of a nuclear agreement with Iran during a 30-day period when economic sanctions could not be lifted.

Should the House and Senate vote to disapprove of the deal, and then override a likely Obama veto, the administration would be barred from waiving some economic sanctions on Iran as part of international accord.

The Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly last week in a 98-1 vote.

International negotiators reached a framework agreement with Iran last month, and are working to finish a final deal by June 30. The deal is expected to lift economic sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear program and a new regime of international inspections.

For months, the White House had stood firm against the effort in Congress to weigh in on the Iran deal, warning that the proposals threatened to upend the talks.

But with Democratic support for the Iran review bill growing, the administration reversed course, accepting a compromise from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report McConnell: We may 'be in the early stages' of a trade war MORE (R-Tenn.) and the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate passes resolution honoring victims of Capital Gazette shooting Biden rallies Dem support for progressive Md. governor candidate Dem lawmakers join nationwide protests against Trump immigration policies MORE (D-Md.), that omitted provisions most opposed by the White House.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) argued the measure gives Congress more leverage over the Obama administration in the talks.

"Once this legislation is signed, when Secretary Kerry sits across from the Iranians, he'll now have on his mind, 'I've got to take this to Congress.' That prospect can only improve these negotiations. And I just hope it's not too late and we aren't too deep into a bad deal," Royce said.

House GOP leaders moved the bill to the floor under a fast-track procedure typically reserved for noncontroversial legislation. The maneuver prohibits amendments and requires a two-thirds majority for passage. 

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus had urged votes on amendments such as requiring Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist as part of a final deal.  

Lawmakers of both parties may have found that amendment proposal politically difficult to oppose, even if it potentially strained the ongoing negotiations with Iran.

Some conservatives bristled at the lack of amendments to the bill, which they think doesn't go far enough to rein in the administration.

"It is unconscionable for Congress to grant such sweeping power to President Obama, allowing him to lift sanctions on Iran, no matter the cost to our national security, the security of Israel, and the entire world. But even worse, the House is willing to do this today without having even one hearing, one amendment, a grand total of 40 minutes of debate," said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

Instead, GOP leadership scheduled a vote alongside the Iran bill on legislation to impose sanctions on Hezbollah. That measure passed 423-0.

The House passed a similar Hezbollah sanctions bill last year by a vote of 404-0, but the Senate did not act on it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' MORE (R-Ky.) chose to move the painstakingly negotiated bill forward with only a few chances for amendment on the floor. Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioScottish beer company offering ‘tiny cans’ for Trump’s ‘tiny hands’ The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war MORE (R-Fla.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites Hillicon Valley: Justice Department appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | New report on election security | FBI agent testifies in marathon hearing MORE (R-Ark.) tried to force a vote on an amendment requiring Iran to recognize Israel, but were denied after McConnell moved to cut off debate.

“If we didn’t face the threats of filibusters, or the blocking of amendments, or the specter of presidential vetoes, this bill would be a heck of a lot stronger. I assure you," McConnell said last week. “But the truth is, we do. That’s the frustrating reality.”

The Obama administration has indicated the president will sign the bill into law as long as it wasn't amended from the original deal struck with Corker and Cardin.

Some liberal Democrats like Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) warned that the legislation signals to other countries that the U.S. is "operating in less than good faith."

"I believe Congress must have oversight. But I don't believe we should make this deal stillborn in the crib before it's even allowed to emerge. We don't want to abort the deal before it's born," Ellison said.