Senate panel approves bill limiting White House power in Iran deal

by Leigh Jones
Posted 4/14/15, 05:00 pm

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill this afternoon that would give congressional oversight to the deal President Barack Obama is trying to make with Iran over its nuclear program.

The bill is a bipartisan compromise designed to garner 67 votes when it comes to the Senate floor, the margin necessary to get it past a presidential veto. If the full Senate approves the measure, it will go to the House, where it also is expected to pass.

Although the bill was written to be veto-proof, that might not be necessary. Obama has until now opposed any attempt by Congress to elbow in on the Iranian negotiations, but shortly before the committee vote, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president might be willing to endorse the revised Senate proposal.

“Despite the things about it that we don’t like, enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it,” Earnest said, with the caveat that Obama isn’t making any promises until he sees the final bill.

Under the proposal, Congress will have 30 days to review any final deal with Tehran. It also requires Obama to give lawmakers regular updates on Iran’s compliance. During that time, Obama would not be allowed to waive any sanctions against Iran that Congress has approved. Although the president has championed the nuclear deal as a good move for Iran, the United States, and the rest of the world, U.S. lawmakers from both parties have been skeptical.

Secretary of State John Kerry and other administration officials visited Capitol Hill on Monday and Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reserve judgment until international negotiators work out the details. Under the deal framework announced April 2, Iran would put its nuclear program on hold for 10 years and submit to inspections of its facilities. But after that, it would have a clear path to restart an enrichment process that could lead to a nuclear weapon, which critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say is unacceptable. If Iran upholds its end of the bargain, it would get relief from the international sanctions strangling its economy.

Iran, the United States, and the five other world powers working on the deal have until the end of June to iron out the final details.

After meeting with senators earlier today, Kerry said he would take to the White House details of the proposed bill to see if the president was amenable to any of the conditions. Obama had threatened to veto any bill that limited his ability to orchestrate an agreement without congressional approval. Under the Constitution, the president has the power to make agreements with other nations, but only Congress can authorize treaties.

Republicans and some Democrats have maintained that the deal is too important not to have congressional approval.

“The American people should have a say,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier today in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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