With Congressional pressure increasing, the Obama House conceded ground on Tuesday, giving legislators a role in approval of any comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.
The White House said President Obama would sign a compromise bill giving Congress the chance to vote on a deal, while hoping that the process will make it difficult to overturn the agreement.
On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the bill requiring the administration to send to Congress the text of a final accord, along with classified material. The measure also halts any lifting of sanctions, pending a 30-day congressional review, and foresees a vote to allow or forbid the lifting of Congressionally-imposed sanctions in exchange for the dismantling of much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
The White House had held out against any submission of the deal for Congressional consideration, saying it was an executive agreement rather than a treaty.
In accepting a vote, the White House is calculating that President Obama can veto any Congressional rejection. The President would need only 34 senators to sustain the veto, meaning that he can lose up to a dozen Democratic senators and still push through the deal.
The compromise on the deal also shortened the review period of the agreement and softened language that would make the lifting of sanctions dependent on Iran’s ending support for terrorism.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest tried to present the compromise as an achievement protecting Obama’s position:
We’ve gone from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that’s undergone substantial revision such that it’s now in the form of a compromise that the President would be willing to sign. That would certainly be an improvement.
However, Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama had retreated in the face of defeat: “[The] change occurred when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this, and only when that occurred.”