Defense

Iran bill passes committee unanimously

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation that would allow members of Congress to vote on a final nuclear deal with Iran.

The compromise legislation, which was negotiated by committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (Md.), passed the committee in a 19-0 vote.

The overwhelming bipartisan endorsement came after the White House said President Obama would be “willing” to sign the bill, so long as it would not intrude on the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

“I think this puts Congress in its rightful role,” Corker said, while Cardin hailed the bill as a “thoughtful and a meaningful way to weigh in.”

The White House has pressured Democrats to withhold support for the legislation until changes were made. Corker and Cardin worked to craft a broad package of amendments prior to the hearing to make the bill more palatable to the White House.

“The president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee today,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a briefing Tuesday afternoon.
 
Corker said he believed the White House backed down after realizing the “number of senators were going to support this legislation.” 

Cardin disagreed and said the changes made to the bill make clear that “this is not a vote on the merits of the agreement.”

“This is a process vote because Congress has imposed sanctions, and we have a right to review it,” he said.

In addition to Cardin, the Democrats on the panel supporting the bill were Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.) Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Ed Markey (Mass.).

The bill, dubbed the Iran Nuclear Amendment Review Act of 2015, would require the president to submit the final Iran agreement to Congress.

If the White House submits the deal by July 9, Congress would then have up to 52 days to review the agreement, during which time the president would be prohibited from waiving congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran.

After an initial review period of 30 days, 12 more days would be added if Congress passes a bill to disapprove the deal with 60 votes and sends it to the president. If the president vetoes the bill, there would be an additional 10 days added to allow Congress an opportunity to override the veto.

If Congress votes to disapprove the deal, the president could not waive some sanctions on Iran.

The bill also requires the president to make a series of detailed reports to Congress on a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missiles work and its support for terrorism.

The legislation is a modified version of what was earlier introduced by Corker and Menendez. That bill had called for 60 days of review and for the White House to certify that Iran no longer supports terrorist organizations.

Menendez said the compromise “rises to the high quality of the what the United States Senate is all about.”

“Let’s send a message to Tehran that sanctions relief is not a given and not a prize for signing on the dotted line,” Menendez said.

The committee had filed 52 amendments, but only one of them was brought up during the markup session for votes.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) proposed an amendment that would add back in the provision requiring the White House to certify Iran did not sponsor terrorism. The amendment failed 13-6.

There was some grumbling by Republicans on the committee, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who wanted to include an amendment that would call for a two-thirds vote approving of the deal in order for it to be enacted. Still, Johnson said, “I would rather have a role than no role.”

The bill now awaits scheduling for a floor vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill Tuesday before the markup that a vote could come as early as next week.

The bill’s strong support on the panel could serve as a bellwether for Democratic support on the Senate floor, where at least 13 Democratic votes are needed to reach a veto-proof majority of 67 votes.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday that he would take up Corker-Menendez 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.

— This story was last updated at 5 p.m.

Tags Barbara Boxer Ben Cardin Bob Corker Chris Coons Chris Murphy Ed Markey Jeanne Shaheen John Barrasso John Cornyn Mitch McConnell Robert Menendez Ron Johnson Tim Kaine Tom Udall

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