A Republican bill to increase U.S. congressional oversight of the Iran nuclear deal cleared a key committee on January 7 and is headed for a vote in the full House of Representatives next week.
The legislation approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee could undermine the landmark agreement, which Iran is working to implement quickly this year, and lead to a showdown with President Barack Obama over his signature foreign-policy achievement.
Republicans said the measure would merely hold the Democratic administration to its commitment not to ease pressure on Iran for its support of terrorism or its ballistic missile program despite agreeing to the nuclear deal.
The bill would bar the administration from removing individuals and financial institutions from a sanctions list kept by the Treasury Department until the president certifies to Congress that they weren't involved in Iran's ballistic-missile program or terrorist activities.
The White House has taken a tough stance toward Tehran on the missile issue and is currently drafting new sanctions on Iran for continuing to test ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear arms in violation of UN sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the administration's intent to keep a close eye on Iran's missile activities on January 7.
But Democratic opponents say Republicans are passing the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act because they could not muster enough opposition to scuttle the deal last year.
"It doesn't serve any purpose to have bills like this that are designed to kill the deal," said U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I don't want to vote 62 or 63 times on killing the Iran agreement," he said, alluding to threats by congressional Republicans to schedule dozens of votes on measures designed to reverse the Iran deal just as they have voted repeatedly on repealing Obama's health-care law.
Engel was one of several Democrats who came out against the nuclear deal last year, saying he did not believe the Tehran government would keep its promise to curb its nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.
But the committee chairman, Representative Ed Royce, said that Iran has demonstrated it can't be trusted to comply with the nuclear deal because it has accelerated its ballistic missile program and "stepped up the slaughter that's going on in Syria" since signing the deal in July.
With reporting by Reuters and AP