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Senate to Debate Iran Bill             04/26 11:31

   Senate proponents of a bill empowering Congress to review and potentially 
reject any Iran nuclear deal must first win a battle with some colleagues 
determined to change the legislation in ways that could sink it.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate proponents of a bill empowering Congress to review 
and potentially reject any Iran nuclear deal must first win a battle with some 
colleagues determined to change the legislation in ways that could sink it.

   "Anybody who monkeys with this bill is going to run into a buzz saw," 
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned ahead of this week's 
debate.

   Also trying to discourage any changes, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New 
Jersey urged senators to stick with the plan as it emerged from the Senate 
Foreign Relations Committee.

   The high-profile debate comes as negotiators from the U.S. and five other 
nations are rushing to finalize, by the end of June, an agreement requiring 
Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions choking 
its economy. The parties will meet again this week on the sidelines of a U.N. 
conference in New York.

   The bill was approved, 19-0, by the Senate committee has 62 co-sponsors from 
both parties.

   Some lawmakers, however, want changes that could cost them the support of 
President Barack Obama, who grudgingly backed the measure, and his fellow 
Democrats.

   If there is a final deal with Iran, Obama can use his executive authority to 
ease some sanctions on his own and work with the European Union and the United 
Nations to lift others. Obama also can waive sanctions that Congress has 
imposed on Iran, but he cannot formally lift them.

   The bill would block Obama from waiving congressional sanctions for at least 
30 days while lawmakers weigh in.

   If 60 senators vote to disapprove of the deal, Obama would lose his waiver 
power altogether. The president is betting he will not.

   If Congress disapproves, the president will almost respond with a veto. As 
long as he can get more than one-third of the Senate to side with him, he can 
prevent his veto from being overridden.

   Backers of the bill are trying to keep lawmakers focused on how it would 
give Congress a say on a critical national security issue. They say the measure 
is not meant to be about how Iran increasingly is wielding influence in the 
Middle East, its support of terrorist groups or human rights violations. They 
worry that adding too many divisive amendments would cause Democrats to drop 
their support.

   Even so, some senators are proposing amendments to pressure Iran to end its 
support of such groups, stop threatening to destroy Israel and recognize its 
right to exist, and release U.S. citizens held in Iran.

   Other amendments would prevent sanctions relief if Iran cooperates with 
nuclear-armed North Korea or until international nuclear inspectors are 
guaranteed access to Iranian military sites.

   GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a presidential candidate, has an amendment with 
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would require Congress to sign off on any final 
nuclear deal, not just disapprove of it. An amendment from Sen. Ron Johnson, 
R-Wis., would make any deal a treaty, thus needing to be ratified by two-thirds 
of the Senate.

   "The president should have to get 67 votes for a major nuclear arms 
agreement with an outlaw regime," said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

   Cotton wants to lower the number of votes needed to reject a deal from 60 to 
51. That means opponents of any deal would only need Republican votes to sink 
it.

   He also wants to see amendments requiring that Congress be notified of any 
violations of an agreement, not just ones that are legally defined as material 
breaches.

   A third set of amendments would prevent sanctions relief until they meet 
goals the U.S. established at the beginning of the negotiations. Critics of the 
talks claim the administration has backtracked and agreed to too many 
concessions for Iran.

   Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee chairman and a 
co-author of the bill, said he too would like to see Iran change its behavior 
and he wants any final deal to be a good one that will prevent Iran from 
developing nuclear weapons. But he said that's not what the bill is about.

   "This bill is about the process," Corker said. "It's not a bill about the 
content of any deal, and hopefully, that's how the bill will remain."


(KA)


 
 
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