By Alexander Bolton - 04/14/15 06:00 AM EDT
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 CorkerSenate rejects push to block Saudi arms sale Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama GOP senators: Obama rebuffed negotiations on 9/11 bill 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 KerryTime for Action on Bahrain When wise men attack: Why Gates is wrong about Clinton, Libya Internal memo: Refugee program vulnerable to fraud MORE, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizOvernight Energy: Trump visits Flint | GOP chairman defends subpoenas in climate probe Overnight Energy: Trump to visit Flint water plant Wednesday US, India expand clean energy research MORE and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJack LewConsumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement European Commissioner defends Apple decision Hatch condemns European Commission’s fine on Apple 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 KingWells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel Pentagon chief: 9/11 bill could be used against US troops GOP chairman: White House ‘running rogue’ on water rule 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 McConnellTrump slams Obama for ‘shameful’ 9/11 bill veto GOP chairman lobbies against overriding Obama on 9/11 bill Black Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP 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 MenendezTaiwan and ICAO: this is the time Rubio warns of terror attack from Cuba flights Politicians shouldn’t be above the law, Trump and Clinton included 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 CoonsOvernight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare Cruz fights domain name handover in hearing 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 MurphySaudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Dems to McConnell: Bring up Trump tax bill Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare 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 RubioSenate rivals gear up for debates Rubio: End of Obama's term could be 'most damaging yet' Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance 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 JohnsonSenate rivals gear up for debates The Trail 2016: Trump seizes on Charlotte violence The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 BarrassoGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Tribes open new front in fight over pipelines Pipeline delay stirs anger, but not yet action, on Capitol Hill 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 IsaksonGrassley pulling away from Dem challenger Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase 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.