Senate moves forward Iran deal oversight bill with bipartisan support

White House supports revisions; Democrats hail bill as a demonstration of compromise; Republicans say bill provides Congress "very little teeth" by way of oversight.

April 14, 2015 23:52
2 minute read.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) (C) talks to reporters

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) (C) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill on Tuesday with overwhelming bipartisan support – and endorsement from the White House – that will grant Congress oversight powers for an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

The bill was significantly revised to achieve the broad bipartisan support sought by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), who said at a hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon that he was satisfied with the final product.

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“If I could wave a wand or pigs began to fly, we could turn this into the type of agreement that had been discussed,” Corker said. But as it stands, the bill “forces” US President Barack Obama to bring to Congress “every detail” of a nuclear agreement before its enactment, he said, and maintains the integrity of the bill’s original form.

The draft language of the bill granted Congress the opportunity to vote yes or no on an eventual agreement, which is currently being negotiated between the US, Iran and other world powers.

One senior Democratic aide told The Jerusalem Post that language allowing for the vote was “clarified” in recent days.

Now, the bill “does not require a vote by Congress” before a deal commences, said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), the committee’s ranking member.

Cardin praised the bill for granting Congress the ability to “weigh in and review” the deal, and ultimately receive “timely notice” of compliance, without sabotaging the negotiations currently under way.

That fear of subterfuge has caused the Obama administration to repeatedly threaten vetoes of any and all Iran legislation during the diplomatic process. But the White House backed away from that veto threat on Tuesday ahead of the committee vote.

Obama would be “willing to sign” Corker’s bill in its current form, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), a co-author of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, said he supported the changes made by Corker.

“At the end of the day, Congress must have oversight responsibility, and this legislation provides it,” said Menendez. “This bill establishes a managed process for congressional review and a framework for congressional oversight.”

But some Republicans said key provisions of the bill – which they continued to support – had been watered down.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said the bill provided Congress with an “incredibly limited role” with regard to oversight, “with very little teeth.”

“We will not have 67 senators approving of this deal,” Johnson said. “That is not what this bill is going to do.”

Marco Rubio, a committee member and candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said he was more “concerned about the destruction of Israel” by Iran than about bipartisan support for the bill.

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