Preventing a nuclear weapons-capable Iran has always been a bipartisan priority. And it can only be achieved through bipartisanship. We worry, therefore, that this cooperative spirit has been severely, but not irreparably, eroded in recent days. It is crucially important that it be revived.
Past Congresses have played an important role in ratcheting up pressure on Iran’s leadership by increasing economic sanctions. These measures have passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers due to laudable partnerships. The ongoing P5+1 negotiations, which we believe represent the best opportunity to reach a solution to Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons capability, were made possible by these Congressional actions.
That is why we also strongly believe that a good deal can only be achieved if both the executive and legislative branches are involved in crafting and approving it. Tehran wants sanctions relief in return for nuclear concessions. The president can eliminate sanctions created by executive orders, but he can only waive congressional sanctions, for 120 days at a time, which comprise 13 out of 20 total sanctions against Iran. Only Congress can fully repeal the significant number of sanctions it put in place; therefore, Congress must play a critical role in achieving a lasting deal.
Indeed, Iran is unlikely to make meaningful reductions for the sake of temporary relief that requires repeated presidential waivers, especially with a new administration only two years away. We believe eschewing the legislative branch only weakens U.S. negotiators’ hand.