US Senate amends Iran nuclear agreement oversight bill with passage in mind

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US Senate amends Iran nuclear agreement oversight bill with passage in mind
 By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/04/30/2015

 WASHINGTON — US Senate leadership is carefully choosing amendments to a bill that would grant Congress oversight powers over a comprehensive nuclear accord with Iran.

 Authors of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 are rejecting amendments strongly opposed by the Obama administration, in an effort to maintain broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for its passage.  The agreement, which currently has the support of over two-thirds of lawmakers, would require the president to submit a deal promptly to Congress in its entirety. The legislature would then have mere weeks to review the deal, and then may choose to vote to approve or disapprove of its participation in the lifting of sanctions.  More broadly, the bill provides Congress with an oversight structure as the deal is implemented, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), the bill’s author, argues.  He has proposed an amendment in recent days that would require the administration submit both the English and Iranian-drafted Farsi versions of the agreement, which ostensibly will cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Tehran’s nuclear program for a finite period.

 The White House countered, saying that US President Barack Obama would veto any legislation with amendments that would undercut a deal reached between his administration and US lawmakers over Congress’ role amid the Iranian nuclear talks.  Obama also would not back any bill that would interfere with the negotiations between Iran, the US and other world powers over its nuclear program, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.  After a political framework was announced in Lausanne on April 2, the White House and Iran’s foreign ministry released incongruent fact sheets on its contents. Corker seeks to avoid similar confusion with a final agreement, he says.  But on Tuesday, the Senate rejected an effort to require the agreement with Iran to be considered a treaty, which would have forced any deal to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate’s 100 members before it could take effect.

 Currently, the provision which allows for a vote of disapproval also allows the chamber to forego a vote. But the US Constitution requires the consent of Congress for the ratification of treaties.  The Obama administration opposes calling the emerging deal a treaty, and instead calls it a multilateral agreement or, more formally, a comprehensive joint plan of action.

The Senate voted 57-39 to reject the treaty measure, which would have required the support of 60 senators to pass.  Nevertheless, its support from 39 Republicans showed that there could be intense debate in the coming days as the Senate agrees on a final version of the legislation.
 Reuters contributed to this report.