A bill calling for Congress to have a say on an emerging nuclear agreement with Iran has turned into a tug of war on Capitol Hill, with Republicans trying to raise the bar so high that a final deal might be impossible and Democrats aiming to give the White House more room to negotiate with Tehran.
Senators of both parties are considering more than 50 amendments to a bill introduced by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Bob Menendez, D-NJ The bill would restrict Obama’s ability to ease sanctions against Iran without congressional approval.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday is to debate the amendments and vote on the bill, which has pitted the White House against the GOP-led Congress on a critical foreign policy issue that President Barack Obama wants etched in his legacy. Obama administration officials, who are expected to continue lobbying lawmakers next week, don’t want Congress to take any action before a final deal could be reached by the end of June.
In an effort to give the president more negotiating room, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the new ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee, and a few of his Democratic colleagues have proposed letting Obama waive congressionally imposed sanctions if not doing so would cause the US to be in violation of a final agreement.
On the Republican side, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a likely presidential candidate, has proposed an amendment that would require the Obama administration to certify that Iran’s leaders have publicly accepted Israel’s right to exist. That’s a tall order. Iran has threatened to destroy Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the US about making a deal with Iranian leaders, whom he distrusts.
And Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has filed amendments to the bill to require Congress to address the issue of compensation for 52 Americans held hostage in Iran from November 1979 to January 1981 before any deal is finalized, any sanctions are eased or diplomatic relations with Iran are normalized.