Senate headed for raucous debate on Iran
© Greg Nash

The Senate could move next week to legislation would create a congressional review process for a nuclear deal with Iran, Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Pelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

“I think it could get here as early as Thursday,” Cardin said, when asked when the legislation would reach the Senate floor. “I don’t think there will be any floor action until next week.”


Senators are expected to turn to the Iran legislation, spearheaded by Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio Has Congress captured Russia policy? MORE (R-Tenn.), after they pass a bill to curb human trafficking and vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination for attorney general.

Corker and Cardin reached a deal on the Iran legislation last week, just hours before a Foreign Relations Committee vote. The agreement shortened the congressional review time while allowing lawmakers to pass a resolution of disapproval on any final deal.

Cardin said that he hopes the bill can move quickly on the floor.

“We had a large number of amendments in committee and we worked them out,” he said. “… My hope is that we have a minimum amount of amendments that we have to deal with.”

But Republicans have voiced skepticism about the legislation, and Cardin said that he’s “been told the Republicans have a lot of interest” in putting forward amendments to the bill.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration MORE (R-Mo.) told reporters Tuesday that he expects the Senate debate on the Iran bill to be "interesting."

“One of the issues we’ll be dealing with in the next few days will be the level of Senate involvement in the negotiations with Iran,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting debate.”

The Missouri Republican suggested that one of the areas of debate would be whether or not Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism should be tied to any final deal on its nuclear program.

“I can't think of a similar time when we were trying to negotiate with somebody on one issue and talking about intercepting weapons that they might be sending to Yemen at the same time on a supposedly unrelated issue,” Blunt said. “I think it's hard to treat the conduct of Iran as if one hand in Iran doesn't know what the other hand is doing.”

Sen Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Jaime Harrison raises million in two weeks for South Carolina Senate bid MORE (R-S.C.), who is eyeing a presidential bid, on Tuesday outlined what he thinks should be the “foundational principles” of any nuclear accord.

His principles include tying Iran’s backing of terrorism to the bargain, allowing inspections of nuclear facilities at any time, and ensuring that sanctions relief is incremental and dependent upon Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, insisted earlier this month that all sanctions should be removed the day a final agreement is reached.

Graham said that when he asks the Obama administration about the hard-line remarks by Iran’s supreme leader, “they say, ‘well they’re just pandering to a domestic audience.’”

“What is the ayatollah worried about his poll numbers, does he think he’s going to lose the next election? This is sort of an absurd concept that they've got to build public support inside of Iran for policy choices. They just do it. You don’t like it, tough,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters. “The whole idea of why they’re speaking out, I don’t buy.”

Graham added that two things could potentially kill a final deal: No “anytime, anywhere” inspections and “immediate relief of sanctions where they get a bunch of money early on.”

The senator’s comments on Tuesday follow a push by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Trump's new interest in water resources — why now? MORE (R-Fla.), a 2016 presidential contender, and Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (R-Ill.) for American prisoners in Iran be released

The two senators said Monday that the Obama administration should demand the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian “prior to concluding a nuclear deal with this brutal regime.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that while he doesn't like how the deal with Iran is shaping up, he'll "withhold judgement" until it's finalized.

"I don't frankly like the looks of the deal much. But we asked for the chance ... to get to review it."

Negotiators have until June 30 to finalize a deal. McConnell predicted that, leading up to the deadline, "we're going to have a lot of interpretations ... about what the deal does or doesn't do."