United States Capitol building in Washington, DC..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- The US Senate passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 on Thursday with overwhelming and bipartisan support.
The bill, which provides Congress with a structure for review of any future comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran, was passed with 98 senators voting in favor in the 100-member chamber.
If passed by the House, the law would require the president to submit the deal in its entirety to Congress within 30 days of passage. Lawmakers would then have the opportunity to vote to approve or disapprove of congressional participation in the agreement.
But a binding resolution of disapproval would require a two-thirds majority in Congress, which appeared unlikely on Thursday, as 150 House Democrats signed a letter endorsing the progress of the nuclear talks.
Negotiations between the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran produced a framework agreement last month that proposed capping, restricting, monitoring and partially rolling back Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for phased sanctions relief.
Earlier versions of the bill were opposed by US President Barack Obama, who threatened to veto any and all legislation pertaining to Iran while negotiations were still ongoing.
The White House has since revoked that veto threat after Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), author of the legislation, worked with Democratic leadership on a compromise version of the bill.
"At the end of the day we can pass a bipartisan bill, as Senator Corker and I first envisioned it," said Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), co-author of the legislation. "Now it's been a long and difficult process. There has been debate, disagreement to some amendments, but we have almost reached the finish line."
“And despite the good intentions – and I will say the good intentions of many of the amendments, some which I agree with – we cannot risk a presidential veto and we cannot at the end of the day risk giving up Congressional review and judgment," Menendez continued, speaking on the Senate floor just before the vote. "That is the critical core issue before the Senate so we will have congressional review and judgment on probably the most significant nuclear nonproliferation national security, global security question, I think, of our time."
That compromise shortened Congress' review time of the deal, and clarified that congressional approval is not required for the multilateral agreement to move forward.
"Senator Corker’s legislation rightly positions Congress to judge and render a verdict on any final nuclear agreement the administration strikes with Tehran. It also should strengthen the administration’s hand at the negotiating table," said House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-California) after the vote. "The House should pass this legislation, and the administration should put its added leverage to use."
The House is expected to take up the bill for a vote next week.