Washington — After the White House reluctantly withdrew its objections, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy voted for a bill Tuesday that would give Congress a say in any agreement with Iran over its nuclear power program.
The bill also bridges a disagreement between Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal over the role Congress should play on an Iran deal.
The bill passed the Senate foreign relations committee unanimously. Murphy is a member of the panel.
Both Murphy and President Obama had objected to efforts by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to require that Congress review a final deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany.
But revisions were made to the bill that would shorten the time Congress has to review any final nuclear agreement and drops a requirement that Obama certify that Iran is not supporting acts of terrorism against the United States.
The bill would also require Congress to review the final deal only after negotiations are completed by a June 30 deadline.
Murphy said he backed the bill after the White House said it would not derail the delicate negotiations with Iran.
“The bill has had substantial changes, and the president said it would not substantially affect negotiations,” Murphy said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., had split with the president and with Murphy in backing Corker’s bill even before it had been modified.
On Tuesday Blumenthal said he was “pleased the legislation that I co-sponsored has been adopted unanimously — an affirmation by the Senate foreign relations committee that the bill avoids any interference or impeding impact on ongoing negotiations to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Blumenthal said he hoped and believed “these negotiations can be successful, and offer the best prospect of achieving our common goal in stopping nuclear proliferation,” but he said he also appreciated “the president’s recognition of the proper role of Congress in providing review.”
Under the terms of the revised legislation, Congress could put forth a resolution disapproving the deal, but such a resolution would require 60 votes. If Obama vetoed the resolution, two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, would be required to overturn it.
Obama maintains Congress has no power to approve or disapprove a final deal with Iran and has only the power to lift economic sanctions against Iran.
Obama’s diplomatic initiative, which has resulted in a recent agreement on a framework for a deal, has met stiff resistance from many congressional Republicans and a few Democrats, even as Murphy and other Connecticut lawmakers back the effort.
The Obama administration launched an effort to sell the initiative on Capitol Hill this week that included briefings by Secretary of State John Kerry and other key administration officials on the framework and the process. Most of the members of the Connecticut congressional delegation have attended those meetings.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said she was encouraged about the framework and the progress of the talks.
“Many of the details still need to be worked out, and there are many reasons to be wary of the Iranian regime,” DeLauro said. “But I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to ensure that the final agreement contains the highest standards to keep Iran accountable, allows for rigorous international inspections and ensures that Iran will not have access to nuclear weapons.”
Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, said Kerry made a “very passionate speech” that Congress “not interfere with anything that would prevent a final deal.”
Himes said he agreed that Congress should not “torpedo” any deal with Iran before the terms are known, but is sympathetic to those, including Israel backers like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who are “rightly suspicious.”
“Suspicion is called for,” Himes said. “Iran has a long record of cheating.”
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, was also briefed.
“Diplomacy and negotiation remain the likeliest path to achieving our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon now or in the future, particularly when assessing the alternatives,” Esty said. “Congress needs to ensure that it does not undermine current efforts to disarm Iran, while nevertheless playing its important role in assessing the wisdom and effectiveness of any final deal.”