The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran survived its first major test last month when the United States Congress failed to pass a resolution of disapproval that would have prevented U.S. implementation of the agreement. Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (H.R. 1191), Congress had 60 days to review the final text of any agreement with Iran. Congressional opponents of the JCPOA hoped to pass a resolution of disapproval in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then to override a promised Presidential veto. Filibuster rules in the Senate, however, required 60 votes in order to bring the resolution of disapproval to the floor and proceed to a final vote. Despite three separate attempts, Senate Republicans did not have the necessary votes to invoke cloture and end debate on the measure; only four Senate Democrats ultimately voted to advance the disapproval resolution.
Despite the failed vote, a number of Congressional efforts to challenge the JCPOA remain underway. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) has been circulating drafts of the Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 (IPOA), which is expected to be officially introduced in the next few days. Cardin has modified the bill several times during the month of September in hopes of gaining support from his fellow Democrats, removing some of the more controversial provisions that would have undercut the JCPOA. The latest draft creates an expedited procedure for imposing terrorism-related sanctions (recall that the JCPOA specifically addresses nuclear-related sanctions only). The IPOA would allow the United States to provide Israel with security assistance to counter "non-peaceful nuclear activities by Iran" and also would authorize foreign military financing to Israel to "address threats from Iran." The IPOA contains the assertion that Iran "does not have an inherent right to uranium enrichment," which is likely to invoke a response from the Iranian Parliament. The House Foreign Affairs Committee also will consider a bill introduced by Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) that would require the President to certify that Iran has paid $43.5 billion in court-ordered damages to the families of terror attacks before sanctions relief under the JCOPA can become effective.
According to the Washington Post, some congressional Republicans have threatened a lawsuit against the Obama Administration, claiming that the 60-day review period provided for in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 was not triggered because the full agreement has not yet been provided to Congress. This controversy relates to the so-called "side agreements" between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran, which opponents feel should have been submitted for Congressional review in addition to the main agreement. While the House of Representatives passed a resolution on September 10 stating that the obligations under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act have not been fulfilled, it is not clear how much interest there would be in moving a lawsuit forward. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) appealed directly to the IAEA on this issue with a letter asking the agency to "fully explain the role Iran plays in verifying its nuclear facilities under the secret side deals Iran and the IAEA have concluded."
The next milestone for the JCPOA is Adoption Day, which will take place on October 18. This is the date on which the JCPOA officially comes into effect. While the United States must begin making the necessary arrangements and preparations to implement sanctions relief on this date, nothing will become effective until Implementation Day (i.e., the date that the IAEA verifies that Iran has complied with the nuclear-related measures outlined in the JCPOA).