26 October 2016
Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the foreign relations committee, wrote the bill that would give Congress oversight over the Iran nuclear deal. Photo: Reuters
Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the foreign relations committee, wrote the bill that would give Congress oversight over the Iran nuclear deal. Photo: Reuters

Obama allows Congress to vote on Iran nuclear deal

US President Barack Obama dropped his opposition to a bill giving Congress a voice on a nuclear deal with Iran after members of his Democratic Party negotiated changes to the bill that had won strong support from both parties.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama could accept compromises that drew bipartisan Senate support, Reuters reported. The president had said he would veto the proposed bill because it could scuttle the emerging Iran deal.

“What we have made clear to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is that the president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee,” Earnest said.

The compromise bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously and is expected to pass the full Senate.

It requires the Obama administration to send the text of a final agreement to Congress as soon as it is completed, and blocks Obama’s ability to waive many US sanctions on Iran while Congress reviews the deal.

It allows a final vote on whether to lift sanctions imposed by Congress in exchange for Iran dismantling its nuclear capabilities.

“The proper role for Congress in this effort is the consideration of the sanctions that Congress put in place themselves,” Earnest told reporters. “It would not be an up or down vote on the deal.”

United Nations sanctions and those imposed by other countries could be lifted if an agreement is reached on restricting Iran’s nuclear program by a June 30 target date.

Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the foreign relations committee who wrote the bill, said the White House had agreed to go along with it only after it was clear there was strong Democratic support.

“That change occurred only when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this,” Corker said.

The bill that passed cut to 30 days from 60 the time in which Congress can review any final nuclear agreement and eliminated the requirement that Obama certify that Iran is not supporting acts of terrorism against the United States.

Instead, it requires the administration to send Congress regular, detailed reports on a range of issues including Iran’s support for terrorism, ballistic missiles and nuclear program.

Obama has invested enormous political capital throughout his presidency in securing an international agreement to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, relying on tight sanctions that crippled Iran’s economy and forced it to negotiate.

Earnest told reporters Obama had also insisted that there should be bipartisan agreement that this would be the only legislation governing Congress’s oversight of the Iran deal.

Some Republicans, and a few hawkish Democrats, have pushed additional sanctions to put even more pressure on Iran but those bills were put on hold while the Corker bill moved forward.

Obama had warned that allowing Congress to vote directly on a final nuclear agreement would undermine Iran’s faith in Washington’s commitment to uphold a deal.

A framework deal with Tehran reached by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US on April 2 is part of an effort to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and not to develop weapons capability, as many in the West fear.

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