The Senate voted to give lawmakers a chance to weigh in on any nuclear deal the White House seeks to hammer out with Iran — a measure that requires President Barack Obama submit any agreement struck between that nation and world powers to Congress.
The vote was 98-1 on a bill that would give Congress at least a month to review the details of an agreement. During the review, the president would be prevented from lifting congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran.
The U.S. and several world powers have crafted a delicate accord with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons.
But the bill that would help give Congress a say in the nature of those negotiations traveled a rocky road to passage.
“Make no mistake that will this not be the end of the story,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor as he sought to soothe frustrated lawmakers while encouraging the bill’s passage.
The measure first faced Democratic opposition and a veto threat from the White House who feared the strict provisions in the bill could derail negotiations between several world powers and Iran over that country’s nuclear program. The bill is a compromise the White House was grudgingly forced to accept after Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the measure last month.
It is also a measure that was the source of internal Republican feuding as lawmakers sought to add amendments.
A cadre of Senate Republicans grew frustrated over efforts by senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida to add amendments late last week that could have tanked the measure by weakening bipartisan support.
Cotton’s amendment would not allow Iran to get sanctions relief until it gave up its nuclear facility, disclosed the past military dimensions of their nuclear program, and accepted a fully verifiable inspections regime. Rubio’s amendment would require that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
“I think they are (poison pills), I think that’s an accurate description,” Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake told NBC News. “I would have liked to have seen it play out and have a few more amendments, I think we all would have liked to have seen that, but it was just impossible given the way it was handled.”
Then yesterday, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana objected to the amendment process because he was not allowed to modify an amendment he had already submitted. Because of that, Vitter charged that there was not an “open amendment process” like was promised by leadership, and objected to any amendments seeing a vote at all.
A package of amendments that Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat had agreed to vote on as a package were therefore scrapped.
The measure now moves to the House where Speaker John Boehner expects passage in that chamber.
“This important, bipartisan legislation will ensure that Congress has a role in reviewing any potential agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Boehner said in a statement. “Our goal is to stop a bad agreement that could pave the way to a nuclear-armed Iran, set off a regional nuclear arms race, and strengthen and legitimize the government of Iran — which threatens Israel and other allies in the region, as well as supports terrorism throughout the Middle East.”