Fate of congressional Iran bill in balance

Now that the Corker-Cardin Iran Nuclear Review Act has reached the Senate floor and is the subject of open debate and amendment votes, fractures in the original compromise have begun to show. 39 Republican Senators voted for an amendment that would have made any deal with Tehran an official “International Treaty”, and subject to ratification by a 2/3 vote in the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Senate Republicans were among those voting for the amendment, despite an emotional appeal against it from Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and author of the bill.

Corker and Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s top Democrat, have been working against so-called “poison pill” amendments seeking to toughen the bill, which they say would kill its chances of becoming law by alienating Democrats and provoking a veto by Democratic President Barack Obama.

Corker announced on Tuesday that his bill has 67 co-sponsors, enough to override a presidential veto.

Obama had threatened to veto the bill as a threat to ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran until last week, when leaders of the foreign relations panel agreed on a compromise that removed many of the measure’s strictest provisions.

Senator Corker is working a very tricky balancing act: Crafting a bipartisan bill that has enough teeth to give the SenateĀ some oversight of the eventual final deal reached with the 5+1 Powers and Iran while simultaneously keeping his veto-proof majority intact and continued White House support.

President Barack Obama withdrew his initial veto threat after Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland eliminated several provisions the administration disliked from a compromise version of the bill that, which the amendments certain Republicans are proposing threaten to upend.

But Obama’s support for the legislation, which would give Congress the ability to weigh in on a final nuclear deal with Iran, only holds if it does not undergo any radical changes, Sherman emphasized.

“The president has said that if the Corker-Cardin legislation stays where it is, he will not veto it,” Sherman said. “If it becomes something else, then he’ll have to consider his options.”

As of Monday afternoon, there were 23 amendments to the bill offered by a half dozen GOP senators, with more expected. Democrats have indicated they probably will not propose any changes.

Ultimately, it is in President Obama’s best interest to avoid a veto-override, which may give the Senate enough space to craft the bill to their liking.

[Reuters][CNN][Image: Commentary Magazine]