A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill on Friday afternoon that would allow Congress to weigh in on any nuclear deal the Obama administration reaches with Iran.
The bill would require President Obama to submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibit the White House from lifting any sanctions for 60 days, during which Congress could debate the deal.
“There are few national security priorities for our country more important than preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and any agreement that seeks to do this must include Congress having a say on the front end," Foreign Relations Committee Chariman 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.), one of the bill's cosponsors, said in a statement.
The measure, dubbed the "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015," was introduced by Corker and Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee ranking member; Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet MORE (R-S.C.); and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE (D-Va.).
The legislation also is co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Angus King (I-Maine).
The bill's introduction comes just weeks before the administration is due to reach a framework agreement with Iran to roll back its nuclear program, and just days away from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress to rally support against any unsatisfactory nuclear deal.
Members of Congress are becoming increasingly anxious as the March 24 deadline approaches. Many on both sides of the aisle fear the administration would concede too much in order to reach a deal with Iran that would be a part of Obama's foreign policy legacy.
However, unlike previous legislation introduced by Corker and Graham, the new bill does not require a vote but allows time for one.
If Congress does vote on the new bill and rejects it, lawmakers would be able to take any actions to implement the deal, such as lifting sanctions.
The bill would also require the White House to share the all details of a deal with Congress, and report on the verification regime for the bill.
It would also require the administration to notify Congress if Iran is in material breach of any final deal, require the administration to report to Congress twice a year about Iran’s compliance, and give Congress tools to reinstate sanctions on Iran if caught cheating.
Corker has long called for a such a bill to allow Congress oversight of the deal, without going as far as a bill introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Menendez , which would automatically apply tougher sanctions if a deal is not reached by June 30, or if Iran violated the terms of any existing agreement.
Menendez and other Democrats agreed to hold off on supporting that bill out of deference to the White House until the March deadline -- just weeks away. White House officials say the bill could derail the talks and empower hardliners in Tehran.
“As we enter the final weeks of negotiations, Congress is rightly pursuing a dual track approach to the Iran nuclear issue and applying responsible pressure on Iran to ensure the right outcome is reached at these talks," Menendez said in a statement.
"The Kirk-Menendez sanctions legislation passed earlier this month is poised to move forward if a political framework agreement is not reached by the March 24 deadline,” he said.
Corker and Menendez said that if a deal is reached by March 24, the new bill would be a good alternative to Kirk-Menendez.
“The stakes of these negotiations with Iran are so important to our own national security that Congress should review and vote on any agreement before it becomes binding,” said Graham.
I believe Congress should weigh in on the content of the deal given the centrality of the congressional sanctions to the entire negotiation and the significant security interests involved," Kaine said.
"This legislation sets up a clear and constructive process for Congressional review of statutory sanctions relief under a standard that is appropriately deferential to the executive branch negotiating the deal," he added.