Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri is pushing an amendment that would require Iran to release U.S. prisoners as a condition of any nuclear deal.
The amendment is among four submitted this week by Blunt, a Republican, to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.
The bipartisan bill is a compromise hammered out between Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland that would ensure Congressional review of an agreement with Iran. The bill is expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week, but amendments like Blunt’s could revive a veto threat from the White House.
Blunt’s measure would add language to the bill that makes the agreement contingent on the release of three Americans in Iranian custody: Saeed Abedini, a pastor; Amir Hekmati, a former Marine; and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. It also would require the administration to certify that Iran is working with American officials to locate and return FBI official Robert Levinson to the U.S.
“I’m still amazed that two years into these negotiations, the Iranians still hold prisoner a Christian pastor, a Washington journalist a decorated former Marine and a former employee of the FBI,” Blunt said on Tuesday.
There has been “no good faith effort to bring those people forward, release those people, and I think that’s a conversation we need to have,” Blunt said. “This is a state that is a bad actor in so many ways I think this debate creates not only an opportunity to talk about that, but also to talk about the kinds of things that should be in an agreement before an agreement is made.”
Blunt and other Senators have submitted numerous amendments to the Iran bill that could make it unpalatable to the administration. A State Department official warned this week that any changes to the bill could prompt President Barack Obama to veto it.
“There will be a lot of pretty awful amendments quite frankly,” said Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs. “And we'll see where we end up.”
Blunt’s other three amendments would require the administration to clarify U.S. policy toward an underground uranium enrichment facility in Iran, extend an annual Pentagon report on Iran’s military capabilities for a decade, and provide Congress with an assessment of nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea.