The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved legislation giving Congress broad authority over a possible nuclear deal with Iran.
Or it merely voted to let Congress hold another vote in the future.
If a good compromise is one that both sides can claim as a victory, the White House and congressional Republicans struck a great one Tuesday. The modified legislation could hit the Senate floor next week and pass with a huge bipartisan majority. Assuming the House follows suit, it’s an Iran bill the White House says President Obama would sign—after months of complaining that Congress was meddling in foreign affairs with its bill.
“This vote to vote later is a way for us to find that common ground where we acknowledge that Congress has a legitimate role to play when it comes to congressional sanctions while, at the same time, protecting the president’s authority,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Two miles down Pennsylvania Avenue, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker called the amended bill “100 percent” of what he and others in Congress wanted to accomplish from the start, which was to assert the final say on whether economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Congress could be lifted.
He called the committee’s action “the true reemergence of the Foreign Relations Committee becoming more than just a debating society.”
Earnest said Obama clearly would have preferred Congress to have done nothing, at least until after the June 30 deadline, to avoid disrupting sensitive negotiations. He said changes agreed upon by Corker, a Tennessee Republican, and ranking member Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, made the legislation less objectionable.
A provision that gave Congress 60 days to review a final agreement with Iran was shortened to 30 days, while language that required that Iran first be removed from a list of state sponsors of terrorism was softened.
“It’s unrealistic for anybody to expect that the administration would be able to certify that Iran has essentially renounced terrorism,” Earnest said. “And to make the agreement contingent on that kind of certification is little more than a poison pill designed to ensure that the agreement could not be implemented.”
And as it fought any legislation that it felt would harm its negotiating position with Iran, the White House touted its outreach to lawmakers in an effort to show it is willing to cooperate with Capitol Hill. “There’ve been a substantial number of conversations between senior White House officials, other senior members of the president’s national-security team and Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Earnest said.
Earnest cautioned that the legislation could still change as it proceeds through Congress, and warned against any GOP attempts to insert Iran restrictions in other, unrelated “must-pass” legislation.