Congress Acts: White House Reacts to Corker Bill

April 15, 2015

U.S. administration officials have indicated that President Obama would be willing to sign legislation that would give Congress the ability to approve or disapprove of a nuclear deal. The White House initially threatened to veto the Corker-Menendez bill, arguing that curbing the president’s powers could negatively impact negotiations. But after lawmakers made several changes, including shortening the review period for a final nuclear deal, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that "enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it.”

The “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” coauthored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) must still be passed in the full Senate and House of Representatives before becoming law. The following are excerpted remarks by U.S. officials.

 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
 
“Despite the things about it that we don’t like, enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it.”
—April 15, 2015, according to the press
 
“If we arrived at a place where the bill that has passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support essentially is a vote to vote later on congressional sanctions and not the decision about whether or not to enter into the agreement, that would certainly resolve some of the concerns we’ve expressed about the authority that is exercised by the President of the United States to conduct foreign policy.
 
The second thing is, as you pointed out, the reports indicate that the link to this terrorism certification measure has been removed.  That certainly would be consistent with the objections that we raised earlier.  Shortening the review period is obviously an important part of this.  We wouldn’t want an unnecessarily -- or at least an unreasonable delay when it comes to implementing the agreement.
 
The other thing that we would want members of the committee in bipartisan fashion to confirm is that this piece of legislation would be the one and only mechanism for codifying precisely what the appropriate congressional oversight is into this matter, and to be specific about the way that Congress would vote on the sanctions that Congress put into place.
 
And that bipartisan agreement is critical to making sure, frankly, that there isn’t an untoward effort to insert a different provision into some sort of must-pass piece of legislation that could really gum up the works here.  So getting bipartisan agreement on that is important.
 
And then, finally, if we could clarify Congress’s role by taking all of these steps -- shortening the review period, being clear about what it is that they're voting on, making clear that this is a vote to vote later on congressional sanctions -- that that would actually achieve, at least in part, what the President has established as the priority here, which is to ensure that our negotiators have the time and space that's necessary to reach an agreement -- if one can be reached -- by the end of June.  And if presented with a compromise along the lines that I just laid out here, that would be the kind of compromise the President would be willing to sign.
—April 14, 2015, in a press briefing
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
 
“Yesterday there was a compromise reached in Washington regarding congressional input. We are confident about our ability for the president to negotiate an agreement and to do so with the ability to make the world safer.”
—April 15, 2015, according to the press