How Obama Is Spinning Congress’s Iran Deal

It’s a ‘vote to vote later’

Committee chairman Senator Bob Corker ,R-TN, speaks during a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee met to debate and vote on S.615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
National Journal
April 14, 2015, 2:28 p.m.

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.

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