Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that the Senate would soon consider legislation forcing the tentative Iran nuclear deal to be approved by Congress, setting up a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who opposes any congressional review.
Republicans in the House and Senate reacted to last week's agreement by saying it lets Iran keep too much nuclear infrastructure in place, including the operation of 6,000 centrifuges. That, in addition to Israel's strong opposition to the deal, has led Republicans to say there's no other choice but to at least let Congress review the deal before it's implemented.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that the Senate would take up legislation giving Congress the power to approve or reject President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal. Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will mark up the bill on April 14, and on Monday, McConnell said the Senate can be expected to consider the bill soon afterwards.
"The administration needs to explain to the Congress and the American people why an interim agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world's leading state sponsor of terror," he said. "The Senate will review these parameters more thoroughly, and respond legislatively with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which is scheduled to be reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week."
McConnell also argued that the deal locks in Iran's current level of nuclear development, without any sense of exactly how far Iran has developed.
"The parameters of the interim deal, in essence, establish an internationally recognized, 10-year nuclear research and development program," he said. "Until we know more about Iran's previous research, no nation can be sure of what Iran may have developed covertly already."
McConnell's comment fits in with those made by other Republicans, who have said over the last several days that the only way for Congress to get a fingerprint on the deal is to review it and approve it. Legislation proposed by Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) would do exactly that.
Last week, Corker said there is "growing bipartisan support" for his bill, and said he thinks the Senate will be able to pass it.
The GOP plan in the Senate immediately forces Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to decide what he thinks about the deal. Cardin took over for Menendez, who is facing federal corruption charges.
But even if Cardin goes against Menendez and opposes the bill, it will easily pass the GOP-led committee. Soon after that, the next question will be whether there are enough Democrats around to let the bill move ahead.
The bill has eight Democratic sponsors, a sign it could easily advance and pass. But the Obama administration can be expected to urge Congress not to pass any legislation related to Iran, in order to avoid putting the deal at risk.
Democrats already showed earlier this year that they are capable of changing their minds on legislation that many had supported. In March, for example, even Democrats who had supported a human trafficking bill that included some anti-abortion language suddenly decided to vote against the bill, after Democrats as a whole decided they needed to block it.