The first test for President Obama’s nuclear framework with Iran will come Tuesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers legislation that will allow Congress to review and vote on a final deal.
Only two Democrats on the panel are expected to vote for the bill, unless Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerRepublicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy GOP Congress unnerved by Trump bumps Trump makes nuclear mistake on arms control treaty with Russia MORE (R-Tenn.), the panel’s chairman, agrees to several significant changes.
Corker said Monday he was optimistic about the prospect of a managers’ package that would address concerns raised by Democrats on his committee.
He suggested one option might be to change the definition of the 60-day review period currently in the legislation, during which time Obama would not be able to waive sanctions after reaching a final deal.
“The integrity of the process is 100 percent intact. There may be some definitions about the 60 days,” he said when asked whether such a change would water down the legislation.
“There’s no way to pass a bill without strong bipartisan support,” he added.
Democratic backing for the legislation has wavered in recent days, with the White House mounting a furious lobbying campaign to minimize the number of Democratic defections.
Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryFormer Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP How dealmaker Trump can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict John Kerry to teach at Yale on global issues MORE, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizWhat we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Overnight Energy: Rough hearing for Tillerson Overnight Energy: Former Exxon chief Tillerson takes the hot seat MORE and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJack LewOne year later, the Iran nuclear deal is a success by any measure Chinese President Xi says a trade war hurts the US and China Overnight Finance: Price puts stock trading law in spotlight | Lingering questions on Trump biz plan | Sanders, Education pick tangle over college costs MORE met with House lawmakers Monday afternoon to urge them to oppose any bill they believe would undermine talks with Iran.
The three Cabinet officials will meet with senators Tuesday.
Corker’s bill is co-sponsored by eight Democrats as well as Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Angus King opposing Mnuchin, Price nominations Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of State MORE (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
It will surely win approval in Corker’s committee, and it should have enough support to break a Democratic filibuster on the Senate floor.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Monday after speaking with Corker that the House will take up the bill if it passes the upper chamber.
“If he is able to get his agreement out of the Senate, it is my intention to bring it to the floor of the House and move it,” he said, adding that Corker believes the legislation “is moving very strongly.”
What’s unclear is whether either the House or Senate could overcome a promised veto from the White House. A two-thirds vote in both chambers would be necessary to do so, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Trump Administration has definitely not drained the swamp How does placing sanctions on Russia help America? THE MEMO: Trump's wild first month MORE (R-Ky.) needs at least four more Democratic votes.
In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposes the bill, which could make it difficult to win the dozens of Democratic votes necessary to get a two-thirds majority in that chamber.
McCarthy declined to say whether Republicans would have enough votes to override an expected veto.
“I think they are going to have a very high number,” he said of the Senate.
It might come down to how Corker handles amendments and whether he and Cardin, who only became the Foreign Relations panel’s ranking Democrat with Sen. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezSteve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senators to Trump: We support additional Iran sanctions MORE’s (D-N.J.) indictment earlier this month, can reach a deal. Menendez is one of the co-sponsors on the Corker bill.
“The key question is whether Corker and Cardin can arrive at a compromise mark that incorporates the most essential Democratic concerns,” said Dylan Williams, the vice president of government affairs at J Street, a self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group.
One crucial amendment, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsSenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senate Dem: Trump will hurt Gorsuch's confirmation by undermining judiciary MORE (Del.), would remove a provision requiring the administration to certify as part of its agreement that Iran no longer supports terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah.
Another, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphySenators eye new sanctions against Iran For Trump and Russia, the fall of Michael Flynn is only the beginning Overnight Finance: Trump's Labor pick withdraws | Ryan tries to save tax plan | Trump pushes tax reform with retailers MORE (Conn.), would allow Obama to waive sanctions against Iran during a 60-day congressional review period if keeping them in place would scuttle a final deal.
As of late Monday, there was no deal on either measure, but Corker expressed optimism that elements of those amendments could be addressed to build a veto-proof coalition.
The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to begin voting on amendments at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The panel has scheduled a business meeting for Wednesday and could continue the markup if it doesn’t hold a final vote on Tuesday. Senators have filed nearly 50 amendments to the legislation, although not all of them are expected to receive votes.
A senior Republican aide said the bill is unlikely to reach the Senate floor for several weeks, which could give Corker and Cardin more time to get a deal.
That could be more difficult if GOP members on the Foreign Relations panel succeed in adding amendments that would toughen any deal with Iran.
Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP loses top Senate contenders How does placing sanctions on Russia help America? Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy MORE (R), who on Monday launched his campaign for president in 2016, has proposed an amendment that would require Iran to accept Israel’s right to exist.
Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonDems ask for hearings on Russian attempts to attack election infrastructure GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget GOP gets bolder in breaking with Trump MORE (R-Wis.) has offered an amendment that would treat the emerging nuclear deal similarly to a treaty by requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate and House to approve it.
Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoPruitt confirmation sets stage for Trump EPA assault Overnight Energy: EPA pick Pruitt set for Friday vote | Dems plan all-night protest | Trump nixes Obama coal mining rule Judge orders release of EPA nominee’s emails MORE (R-Wyo.) has filed four amendments, including one prohibiting any federal funding from being used to implement a nuclear agreement with Iran until Congress passes and the president signs a resolution of approval.
Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report Battle over Trump nominees shifts to new target MORE (R-Ga.) has offered an amendment requiring that U.S. hostages held in Iran from 1979 to 1981 and their families receive compensation.
Jordan Fabian and Mike Lillis contributed.