Republicans pushing Iran bill despite veto threat

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2015 2:34 PM

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday the Senate would begin debate next week on a bill that would require President Barack Obama to submit any final nuclear deal with Iran for Congress' approval.

McConnell, a Republican, told his weekly news conference that he intended to debate the bill in the Senate next week.

"We think the timing is important," McConnell said. "We think it will help prevent the administration from entering into a bad deal. But if they do, it will provide an opportunity for Congress to weigh in."

McConnell was speaking shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States it was negotiating a bad deal with Tehran.

The White House has said Obama would veto the Iran Nuclear Review Act, which was introduced by Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the panel.

The measure would give Congress 60 days to consider - and potentially reject - a deal after it was announced. It is more popular with Democrats than legislation to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran and thus might stand a better chance of winning enough votes to survive a veto.

Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, suggested that lawmakers wait to debate the bill until they know what has happened in the talks.

"Why don't we wait until we see what happens? There are only three weeks left," Reid told reporters.

Iran and international powers have set a deadline of late March to reach a framework agreement and June for a comprehensive final settlement to curb Iran's nuclear program to ensure it cannot develop an atomic bomb.

The Senate may also consider within weeks a bill to impose stricter sanctions on Iran. That measure also faces a veto threat. The administration says any attempt to toughen sanctions while negotiations are ongoing could prompt Iran - and possibly other countries involved in the talks - to give up on negotiations.

McConnell said the sanctions bill might come up as an amendment to the Corker bill.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Beech; editing by Andrew Hay)