Corker-Cardin Deal Clears Path for Iran Bill

The Foreign Relations panel unanimously approves bill to give Congress a say on the Iran nuclear agreement.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved high-stakes legislation Tuesday that hands Congress power to approve or thwart the potential U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement.

The 19-to-0 vote on a measure that had been the subject of heated and often partisan debate was made possible by a last-minute deal struck by GOP Chairman Bob Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the panel. The bipartisan agreement meant members of the committee mostly avoided offering potentiall divisive amendments. And by the time the markup happened, the White House—which had threatened repeatedly to veto the measure—was on board, too.

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White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during his briefing Tuesday that President Obama would back the new language—a key concession given his past veto threats.

"The president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee today," Earnest said.

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Earlier Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were all on Capitol Hill for the second straight day to brief lawmakers on the Iran agreement. Lew initially declined comment when asked if the deal would soften opposition to the bill. And Kerry, asked if there's "receptivity" to the altered plan, said he would have to speak to the White House

The Senate's No. 2 Republican said Monday that it could be on the Senate floor as soon as next week.

The Corker-Cardin deal jettisons controversial language in the bill that would have required President Obama to certify that Iran has not been supporting or carrying out terrorist acts against the United States or American citizens.

That and other changes to the bill, including language that could shorten the congressional-review period for the measure, could help draw more Democrats to support the it.

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Several Democrats—and the White House—had objected to the terrorism language in the bill that Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez initially introduced.

"[W]e do not anticipate in the context of this agreement being able to resolve all of our concerns about Iran's terror activities. In fact, that's the reason that we're pursuing this agreement—to ensure that Iran can't obtain a nuclear weapon and then share either that nuclear weapon, or some of the technology or those materials, with a terrorist organization," Earnest said Monday.

However, the White House had repeatedly threatened to veto the overall bill, arguing it would undermine the sensitive talks with Iran aimed at freezing its ability to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from economically damaging sanctions.

Rachel Roubein contributed to this article