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US Senate's Iran Nuclear Bill Surviving ‘Poison Pill’ Amendments

  • Michael Bowman

Senator Bob Corker speaks to reports at the US Capitol in Washington, April 21, 2015.

Senator Bob Corker speaks to reports at the US Capitol in Washington, April 21, 2015.

A bill subjecting any nuclear deal with Iran to U.S. congressional review has, so far, survived a barrage of proposed amendments by Republican senators that, if adopted, would erode bipartisan support for the legislation and likely trigger a veto by President Barack Obama.

The underlying bill would give Congress a 30-day review period if and when a final nuclear accord with Iran is struck. No congressionally mandated sanctions on Tehran could be lifted during that period, and the legislature could vote to approve or disapprove the agreement.

The bill was crafted by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democrat Ben Cardin. Both serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which unanimously approved the measure earlier this month.

Corker and Cardin have spent this week on the Senate floor fending off proposed amendments by Republican colleagues, including several running for president in 2016.

“I urge my colleagues to exercise some restraint,” said Cardin. “This is an extremely important issue. It’s got to rise above our individual desires.”

In recent days, the Senate voted down an amendment that would make a nuclear accord with Iran a treaty requiring super-majority congressional votes to ratify, and another that would require certification that Iran is not backing terrorism against the United States.

Other proposed amendments would compel Tehran to stipulate Israel’s right to exist, and require the release of American citizens being held by Iran.

Corker said he shares the concerns that prompted the amendments and goals they contain, but added, “I am trying to get done what is possible.”

Unaltered, the legislation has the White House’s grudging endorsement; but, President Obama and some Senate Democrats have indicated they would oppose the bill if provisions are added on issues unrelated to Iran’s atomic program.

Without Democratic support, Congress would not be able to override a presidential veto, and the entire legislative initiative would fail.

Still, some Republicans are not backing down.

Senator Ron Johnson’s amendment subjecting a nuclear accord to treaty ratification failed, but Thursday he continued to argue for heightened congressional voting requirements to approve a pact.

“It’s a very bad deal, very risky for this nation,” he said. “That agreement, as it is being described to us, would put Iran on the path to be a nuclear power.”

While some lawmakers make impassioned floor speeches, others are taking to social media to stir the pot.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have had testy exchanges on Twitter in recent days.

Cotton challenged Zarif to a debate on “Iran’s record of tyranny, treachery, & terror.” He added he wouldn’t be surprised if the foreign minister declined.

“After all, in your 20s, you hid in U.S. during Iran-Iraq war while peasants & kids were marched to die,” he tweeted.

Zarif responded: “Serious diplomacy, not macho personal smear, is what we need. Congrats on Ur new born. May U and Ur family enjoy him in peace.”

Earlier this week, Cotton’s wife gave birth to a son. In March, Cotton authored an open letter to Iran, signed by dozens of Republican colleagues, stating that Congress could block any nuclear deal that does not meet lawmakers’ expectations.