Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of Capitol Hill’s most influential voices in the Iran nuclear debate, is strongly endorsing passage of a law opposed by President Barack Obama that would give Congress an avenue to reject the White House-brokered framework unveiled last week.
The comments Monday by the Democratic leader-in-waiting illustrate the enormity of the task ahead for Obama and his team: While there’s no guarantee that Congress would ultimately reject an agreement with Iran, there’s an increasingly bipartisan consensus that Congress should at least have the ability to do so.
“This is a very serious issue that deserves careful consideration, and I expect to have a classified briefing in the near future. I strongly believe Congress should have the right to disapprove any agreement and I support the Corker bill which would allow that to occur,” Schumer said in an emailed statement to POLITICO.
Schumer had quietly signed on to a bill allowing congressional review of the Iran deal two weeks ago, but made little fanfare of his co-sponsorship. In a brief statement on Friday, he said only that he’d review the agreement. Now that the outlines of an agreement are known, Schumer’s emphatic statement that Congress has an important role becomes more significant, signaling to fellow Democrats that it’s safe to jump on board the review bill.
His comments came as the White House press secretary was panning the legislation, which was written by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and would allow Congress to vote to suspend the lifting of sanctions. A committee vote on the measure is planned for next week.
Schumer is a potentially decisive figure in whether the Iran measure will eclipse veto-proof support in Congress, given his expected ascension to the Democratic leader’s job in 2017 and the diminished influence of indicted Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who recently relinquished his position as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel.
Within the Senate Democratic Caucus, a dozen senators have either co-sponsored Corker’s legislation or indicated they could support it. That would put the measure one vote shy of a veto-proof majority. On Monday, three more Democratic senators — Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — left open the possibility of voting for it, according to aides. Their support, however, could hinge on whether Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the new ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is able to negotiate concessions that alleviate concerns the bill could derail any agreement.
Capitol Hill aides in both parties on Monday said it is not clear what changes Democrats will seek. The bill would give Congress 60 days to review the Iran framework by freezing sanction relief and allowing lawmakers the ability to formally disapprove or approve of the legislation. One possibility is to clarify that the legislation governs only congressional sanctions rather than ones that originated from global agreements or the White House.
SOURCE: BURGESS EVERETT