REUTERS - The U.S. House of Representatives plans to reconsider legislation to restrict President Barack Obama's ability to lift sanctions on Iran under an international nuclear deal after its passage was canceled on Wednesday when too few members voted.
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Obama, a Democrat, has promised to veto the measure, saying it would kill the landmark agreement. No Republicans in Congress supported the accord after it was announced in July.
The House's Republican leaders decided to vote again later this month in the hope of attracting more support. The measure passed by 191 to 106, almost entirely along party lines, with almost every 'yes' vote coming from Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed to it.
Nearly a third of the House, 137 members, did not vote, and House officials said the chamber would consider it again during the week of January 25. New House speaker Paul Ryan has been trying to keep votes closer to their allotted times rather than hold them open for members who take too long to come to the chamber. The Iran vote was cut off promptly at fifteen minutes.
The vote came hours after Iran released ten U.S. sailors it had held overnight, bringing a swift end to an incident that had rattled nerves days before the expected implementation of the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.
Supporters said the seizure of the sailors was one reason to support the bill. Many U.S. lawmakers have clamored for tougher action against Iran after it tested ballistic missiles late last year and for its refusal to release American prisoners.
"Iran has been on a bit of a tear," said Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as he sought support for the bill.
"If Iran behaves this way now, in a few days when it gets its hands on this bankroll ... what other actions are we going to see from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards?" Royce asked.
Iran will receive millions of dollars held up under the sanctions regime after the nuclear pact is implemented.
Democrats, including some who opposed the nuclear agreement, likened the bill to the Republican-led House's more than sixty votes to repeal Obama's healthcare law.
"We should go back to the drawing board rather than ramming through a partisan measure that will never become law," said Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs panel, who opposed the nuclear pact.
The White House said on Monday Obama would veto the "Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act," saying it would prevent the United States from implementing the Iran deal by tying Obama's ability to lift sanctions to non-nuclear issues.