If the Senate approves the House-passed bill, it will be sent to President Barack Obama, and he is expected to sign it into law.
But a senior Obama administration official says the bill heading toward passage doesn't violate the terms of the nuclear deal, which clears the way for Obama to sign it. But lawmakers were still anxious to keep the sanctions - which otherwise would expire at the end of the year - in law so Iran understands how serious Congress is that the Islamic state not try again to develop nuclear weapons. It passed the House of Representatives almost unanimously in November, and congressional aides said they expected Obama would sign it when it reached his desk.
Indeed, the lopsided congressional votes on the Iran Sanctions Act extension reflect growing concern not only that Iran may be violating the limits placed on its nuclear activities by the nuclear deal, but that an Iran emboldened by the global accord is stepping up destabilizing actions in the Middle East, notably in Syria and Yemen.
The legislation does not directly address the nuclear pact. The law, first passed by Congress in 1996 and renewed several times since then, allows the U.S.to slap companies with economic sanctions for doing business with Iran. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalObama will sign Iran sanctions bill passed by Senate Victims of Nazi Art theft need Congress to HEAR GOP wants to move fast on Sessions MORE (D-Conn.), who supported the Iran deal.
With Iran and its nuclear efforts having largely fallen off diplomatic agendas, that aspect of a deal that exchanged verifiable limits on Iran's nuclear program for significant sanctions relief for Tehran would seem a success.
"The practical effect of the Iran nuclear agreement depends on our resolve", Blumenthal said.
"These are not new sanctions".
Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R., Fla.), a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal, told the Free Beacon following the vote that the Obama administration is not likely to be happy with the outcome.
According to U.S. media, President Obama is expected to sign the bill as it would punish Tehran should it fail to follow the terms of the nuclear deal it signed with world powers.
Mr. Obama is trying to fortify the sanctions agreement before his term ends.
The House meanwhile neared approval Thursday of legislation easing bank curbs that Democrats imposed to prevent another financial crisis, as Republicans offered a symbolic preview of regulatory changes they plan to pursue after President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.). Corker has been mentioned as a possible Trump Secretary of State.