Senate OKs Bill Giving Congress Review of Iran Nuclear Deal

WASHINGTON (AP) -

The Senate muscled its way into President Obama’s talks to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The vote was 98-1 for the bipartisan bill that would give Congress a say on what could be a historic accord that the United States and five other nations are trying to finalize with Iran.

The lone “no” vote came from freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who wants the administration to submit any agreement to the Senate as a treaty. Under the Constitution, that would require approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

The House is expected to vote next week on the measure.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement moments after the vote that the “goal is to stop a bad agreement that could pave the way to a nuclear-armed Iran, set off a regional nuclear arms race, and strengthen and legitimize the government of Iran.”

White House spokesman Eric Shultz said Obama would sign the bill in its current form. But the spokesman added that Obama has made it clear that if amendments are added by the House “that would endanger a deal coming together that prevented Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that we’d oppose it.”

Even if Congress rejects his final nuclear deal with Tehran, Obama could use his executive pen to offer sanctions relief on his own. He could take unilateral actions that would allow a deal to be implemented.

The U.S. and other nations negotiating with Tehran have long suspected that Iran’s nuclear program is secretly aimed at atomic weapons capability. Tehran insists the program is entirely devoted to civilian purposes.

The talks resume next week in Vienna, with the goal of reaching an agreement by June 30.

The legislation would bar Obama from waiving congressional sanctions for at least 30 days while lawmakers examine any final deal and would stipulate that if senators disapprove of the deal, Obama would lose his power to waive certain economic penalties Congress has imposed on Iran.

In the House, about 150 Democrats — enough to sustain a veto — wrote the president to express their strong support for the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

“We urge you to stay the course,” the letter said. “We must allow our negotiating team the space and time necessary to build on the progress made in the political framework and turn it into a long-term, verifiable agreement.”