The Republican chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they agreed on a bill giving Congress authority to review any nuclear deal with Iran, as the Obama administration signaled it would accept the compromise.
“It absolutely, 100 percent, keeps the congressional review process in place,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the bill’s chief sponsor and committee chairman. Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, confirmed he agreed with Corker on the measure, with the changes.
“While we’re reviewing this, absolutely zero congressional sanctions can be lifted,” Corker told reporters. His committee plans to consider the measure Tuesday afternoon.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that the administration would wait until the committee finishes work on the bill before deciding whether the legislation would draw the veto threatened on an earlier version.
“Despite the things about it that we don’t like, enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it,” Earnest said, if the changes being considered are incorporated in the measure approved by the panel.
The administration had objected to the legislation’s requirement that the president must certify Iran has stopped support for terrorist groups, a 60-day review period that would delay implementation of any agreement, its interference with the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy and extraneous provisions that have nothing to do with the substance of the agreement.
‘Kind of Compromise’
The revised provisions “would be the kind of compromise the president is willing to sign,” Earnest said.
The administration has been saying that President Barack Obama would veto a bill requiring congressional review on the grounds it could disrupt final negotiations with Iran and five other world powers.
Corker changed the bill to reduce the review period from 60 days to 52 days — and perhaps as few as 30 days — so long as Congress received the details of a deal by July 12.
Corker also said his bill would require Obama to certify that Iran remains in compliance with any nuclear agreement “on a 90-day basis.”
While the bill also would require the president to report on whether Iran is a sponsor of terrorism, a finding that it is would no longer trigger a renewal of sanctions, according to Sue Walitsky, a Cardin spokeswoman.
Secretary of State John Kerry and other top officials briefed senators on a framework accord Monday and Tuesday in an effort to keep them from disrupting the negotiations.
Corker, highlighting bipartisan support for the legislation, said he worked with Democrats to make changes to the measure, S. 615.
In the House, Kerry received a standing ovation after making a pitch for the Iran deal at a private meeting with Democrats on Tuesday, several lawmakers said.
“The secretary made a very persuasive case to give him the time to see if he can get a deal,” said Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. He said he opposed taking up the Corker bill while negotiations are continuing.
The framework agreement, announced April 2 by the U.S. and five other world powers, would curb Iran’s ability to enrich uranium in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz participated in the briefing with House Democrats.
Kerry said the goal is to keep Congress at bay as the U.S. and its international partners work to complete a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program before a June 30 deadline. Israel says the plan would threaten its existence.
“We hope Congress will listen carefully and ask the questions that it wants, but also give us the space and the time to complete a very difficult task which has high stakes for our country,” Kerry told reporters before the meeting.
Obama has urged Congress to be patient, making multiple phone calls to congressional leaders, including Corker. Leaders in Obama’s Democratic party also received calls, as some have joined Corker’s effort to give Congress the final say on a deal.
Obama met with leaders of American Jewish groups and with Jewish political backers to build support for the deal.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to its members Tuesday outlining what it called the dangers of nuclear deal and urging them to support Corker’s bill.
“The framework agreement announced this April indicates that Iran would be allowed to keep significant elements of its nuclear infrastructure, including its once secret underground facility at Fordow as well as research and development on advanced centrifuges,” according to the letter.
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