Obama to let Congress see Iran nuke deal Se­nate bill would leave talks alone, keep sanc­tions in place

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN AND DAVE BOYER

Sen­a­tors reached a bi­par­ti­san deal Tues­day to force any fi­nal Iran nu­clear deal to be sub­mit­ted to Congress as law­mak­ers took the first real steps to curb Pres­i­dent Obama’s for­eign pol­icy ne­go­ti­a­tions with Tehran.

Un­der terms of the deal, which cleared the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on a 19-0 vote, the ad­min­is­tra­tion couldn’t lift any of the sanc­tions Congress has placed on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram un­til he presents all the de­tails to Capitol Hill and gives Congress a chance to have a say. If Congress doesn’t act, Mr. Obama can lift the sanc­tions on his own.

Law­mak­ers said that means they aren’t pre­judg­ing the deal, which Mr. Obama’s team is still ne­go­ti­at­ing with Iran, rac­ing a self­im­posed end-of-June dead­line to flesh out de­tails of the frame­work that all sides reached this month.

A chas­tened White House, which threat­ened ve­toes of ear­lier ver­sions of the bill, said it wasn’t “thrilled,” but Mr. Obama likely would sign the leg­is­la­tion. The lat­est plan would give Congress a say only af­ter the deal is com­pleted, which means law­mak­ers can’t dis­rupt ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“They’ve re­lented,” said Sen. Bob Corker, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can and chair­man of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

He said the White House re­al­ized it would suf­fer an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat if it con­tin­ued to op­pose the bill.

Mr. Obama this month an­nounced that the U.S., Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and China reached the out­lines of a deal with the regime in Tehran that would push Iran to slow work on its nu­clear pro­gram and ex­tend the amount of time it would take for the coun­try to build an atomic weapon — a dead­line dubbed “nu­clear break­out.”

The specifics re­main se­cret, and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s public de­scrip­tions of the deal dif­fer markedly from the Ira­ni­ans’ ver­sion, leav­ing many ad­min­is­tra­tion crit­ics to ques­tion whether the pres­i­dent has been bam­boo­zled.

The bill the com­mit­tee ap­proved Tues­day would give Mr. Obama time to fin­ish his ne­go­ti­a­tions but re­quire him to of­fi­cially sub­mit a fi­nal deal to Congress, start­ing the clock on law­mak­ers’ chance to re­view the pro­posal. Sanc­tions on Iran could not be lifted in the in­terim.

Congress could pass ei­ther a res­o­lu­tion of ap­proval, giv­ing its of­fi­cial back­ing, or a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval, or could do noth­ing. If law­mak­ers pass a bill of dis­ap­proval, Mr. Obama could use his veto power and force Congress to come up with enough votes to keep the sanc­tions in place.

Sup­port­ers and skep­tics of the frame­work said they can back the leg­is­la­tion, sav­ing po­ten­tial bat­tles such as sup­port for Is­rael for an even­tual floor fight.

“I would hope that the White House would rec­og­nize this is con­gres­sional pre­rog­a­tive, that we have if any­thing re­in­forced the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate and there will be no ac­tion taken by Congress on the sub­stance of the agree­ments un­til we re­ceive the agree­ments,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Mary­land, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

Some Repub­li­cans sup­port the bill but said they feared Congress was ced­ing more leg­isla­tive author­ity to Mr. Obama.

Sen. Ron John­son, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, said the Con­sti­tu­tion’s re­quire­ment that all treaties be sub­mit­ted to the Se­nate for rat­i­fi­ca­tion, re­quir­ing a two-thirds ma­jor­ity, should ap­ply to the nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions. In­stead, the pro­ce­dures worked out in the bill give Mr. Obama all the lever­age.

“It is a far cry from ad­vice and con­sent of 67 sen­a­tors vot­ing in the af­fir­ma­tive that this is a good deal,” Mr. John­son said.

The White House has been try­ing to pre­vent con­gres­sional in­tru­sion by re­peat­edly send­ing Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry, a for­mer se­na­tor, to the Capitol to try to ca­jole law­mak­ers. The ad­min­is­tra­tion says it has main­tained con­sul­ta­tions, but Congress has in­sisted on a more for­mal say-so.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the pres­i­dent wasn’t thrilled with the bill but changes to the time frames and strip­ping out pro­vi­sions not re­lated to the nu­clear pro­gram made the bill more palat­able.

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