Republicans Push for Iran Legislation

Republicans Push for Iran Legislation Republicans Push for Iran Legislation

Senate Republicans on Sunday pressed their demand that the US Congress be allowed to vote on a nuclear agreement with Iran, but signaled they are willing to wait for last week's interim agreement to be finalized before passing judgment.

"Look, the president needs to sell this to the American people, and Congress needs to be involved," said Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Reuters reported.

Corker did not condemn the framework deal reached by Iran and major powers in Switzerland on Thursday after months of negotiations, but he cited concerns over inspection provisions and differing accounts from Washington and Tehran over what was actually agreed.

The Tennessee Republican said his committee will go ahead with a planned April 14 vote on legislation requiring President Barack Obama to submit a final nuclear agreement to Congress for review and approval. The deal reached last Thursday is supposed to be the framework for a final agreement to be struck by the end of June.

The bill, supported by both Republicans and many Democrats, would prohibit Obama from suspending sanctions on Iran during a 60-day congressional review. In that period, Congress could approve or disapprove the agreement, or take no action.

Corker told Fox News Sunday that he had backing from key Democrats for the bill.

Corker acknowledged he did not know if backers of the legislation in the Senate would have the 67 votes needed to override an expected veto by Obama, who says passing the measure would undermine the negotiations with Iran.

"I don't know if we have 67 votes. ... We have 64 or 65 that we are aware of today. There are many more that are considering this," Corker said.

  Democrats Hold the Key

With Republicans mostly united on the issue, and some, including potential 2016 presidential candidates, fiercely condemning the deal, the key role likely will be played by lawmakers from Obama's Democratic Party.

While many Democrats are skeptical of Iran, they may be unwilling to hand the US president a major foreign policy defeat.

"Wavering Senate Democrats have been circumspect about the deal reached in Switzerland," said Daniel Harsha, a former Democratic staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Until the agreement is finalized and Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about it on Capitol Hill, "you aren't likely to see many Senate Democrats, even those who have publicly backed new sanctions legislation ... publicly pan the agreement," said Harsha, now at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

The agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, would remove economic sanctions on Tehran in return for limits on its nuclear sites, centrifuges that can enrich uranium, and enriched uranium stockpiles for a specified period of time.