Senator Bob Corker said he wants a Senate panel to vote Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress 52 days to review, and potentially reject, a nuclear arms deal with Iran before sanctions are lifted against the Islamic republic.
“Those congressional sanctions cannot be waived until Congress completes its work,” Corker, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Bloomberg TV Tuesday.
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The Senate committee Tuesday is set to take up the legislation, which President Barack Obama has said he’ll veto, as Secretary of State John Kerry and other top officials plan to brief senators on a framework accord and seek to keep them from disrupting the negotiations.
Corker, highlighting bipartisan support for the legislation, said he worked with Democrats Monday night to make changes to the bill.
He declined to say whether or not the bill — which appears to have enough votes for passage — had the support of enough Democrats to reach the 67 senators needed to override a presidential veto.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t ever count my chickens before they’re hatched.”
Kerry briefed House members Monday in a closed-door session on the framework agreement announced April 2 by the U.S. and five other world powers that would curb Iran’s ability to enrich uranium in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz participated in the briefing.
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Kerry said their goal is to keep Congress at bay as the U.S. and its international partners work to complete a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program before a June 30 deadline. Israel says the plan would threaten its existence.
“We hope Congress will listen carefully and ask the questions that it wants, but also give us the space and the time to complete a very difficult task which has high stakes for our country,” Kerry told reporters before the meeting.
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Obama has urged Congress to be patient, making multiple phone calls to congressional leaders, including Corker. Leaders in Obama’s Democratic party also received calls, as some have joined Corker’s effort to give Congress the final say on a deal.
Obama met with leaders of American Jewish groups and with Jewish political backers to build support for the deal.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to its members Tuesday outlining what it called the dangers of nuclear deal and urging them to support Corker’s bill.
“The framework agreement announced this April indicates that Iran would be allowed to keep significant elements of its nuclear infrastructure, including its once secret underground facility at Fordow as well as research and development on advanced centrifuges,” according to the letter.
It’s not clear that Kerry’s overtures to Congress have had the intended effect, as Corker’s bill continues to gain bipartisan support.
“There was a great deal of skepticism in the room,” Representative Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat, said Tuesday on CNN. “Anybody who is thinking about a deal with Iran has to approach a deal with some skepticism.”
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