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US Senate to Debate Iran Nuclear Bill

  • Michael Bowman

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks from his office to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 23, 2015.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks from his office to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 23, 2015.

The U.S. Senate is to begin debate next week on bipartisan legislation subjecting any final nuclear accord with Iran to congressional review and a potential vote approving or rejecting the deal.

“We look forward to a vigorous debate next week,” said Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Congress and the American people deserve a say in any nuclear deal the president tries to cut with Iran.”

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill that gives Congress 30 days to review and vote on any nuclear agreement with Iran. No sanctions on Tehran enacted by Congress could be waived during that period.

International negotiations are to conclude in June.

For months, the Obama administration vigorously opposed any measure giving lawmakers a defacto veto over a final Iran nuclear accord. The White House signaled at least tepid support for the Senate bill, however, after the review period was cut in half and stipulations about side issues, like compelling Tehran to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, were dropped.

The bill is expected to pass both houses of Congress with veto-proof bipartisan majorities.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, said he welcomes floor debate on the legislation and wants international negotiations to succeed.

“I hope we arrive at that point. We are not there yet, and I wish so fervently that negotiators can arrive at some agreement in the next couple months,” he said. “It’s a very, very difficult issue - so important for the country and the world.”

By contrast, McConnell expressed skepticism about any nuclear deal that may emerge.

“Initially, we were led to believe that the point of these negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he said. “But the administration’s focus appears to have shifted from reaching an agreement that would end Iran’s nuclear program to reaching an agreement for agreement’s sake.”

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