Dem senator: 'Zero chance' Iran bill would derail talks

Dem senator: 'Zero chance' Iran bill would derail talks
© Greg Nash

A top Democrat in the Iran debate pushed back against the White House's argument that passing a bill to allow Congress to review a final nuclear deal with Iran before June 30 would derail the nuclear talks.  

"There is zero chance that Corker-Menendez passing will harm these negotiations," said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Fill the Eastern District of Virginia  Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (D-Va.), in an interview with The Washington Post published Thursday. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is poised to vote on the bill Tuesday, and the White House has said doing so before talks conclude would provide hardliners in Iran with evidence the U.S. is not serious about a deal.  

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However, Kaine, a member of the committee, said "Iran is very sophisticated. They want out from under congressional sanctions. They've known from the beginning that Congress would be involved in that."  

Under a framework agreement reached with Iran last week, the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations would lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for restricting its nuclear program.  

However, members of Congress say only they can permanently lift congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran. The bill, co-authored by Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would prevent the administration from waiving or suspending those sanctions for 60 days after a deal is reached. 

Kaine defended the bill, which he worked on with Corker and Menendez, as a way to give lawmakers a structured way to have input. 

"The letter from the 47 Republicans is engagement under a free-for-all. It’s much better to have congressional engagement under a standard that is agreed upon and timely, and I think this is deferential to the administration," he said.

"Corker-Menendez gives Congress rules that are defined in terms of procedures and timing, providing certainty that may even help the negotiators in the final phase of the negotiation," he added. 

The bill currently has nine Democratic cosponsors. It would need at least 13 Democratic votes on the Senate floor to reach a veto-proof majority. 

Dems are split on their support, with some who have previously supported the bill wavering in recent days, and others, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), coming out stronger. 

Kaine said even if Democrats override the president's veto on Corker-Menendez, they could still choose to approve the final deal. 

"If you posit a final deal that looks like the agreement announced Thursday? Absolutely. A number of us who will vote for Corker-Menendez are very supportive of diplomacy," he said. 

Kaine noted even if the bill passed, a later resolution of disapproval would also have to overcome a presidential veto. 

"The prospects of a resolution of approval passing both houses is tough. But a resolution of disapproval passing would be unlikely," he said.