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White House Would Accept Senate Compromise on Iran Nuclear Deal

The White House signaled it would agree to lawmakers' demands to have a say in a nuclear deal with Iran.
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/ Source: NBC News

The White House signaled Tuesday that it would grudgingly acquiesce to lawmakers' demands to have a say in a nuclear deal with Iran — after Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a measure that would force President Barack Obama to submit any agreement to Congress.

The committee voted 19-0 for a bill that would give Congress at least a month to review the details of an agreement. During the review, Obama would be prohibited from waiving congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran — which the administration says would be needed to get Iran to sign a deal.

The measure now goes to the Senate floor, where the Republican leadership expects it to pass, congressional aides told NBC News. Obama could still veto it, but supporters said they believe they have the votes to override.

The U.S. and five other world powers have crafted a tenuous framework of a deal with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons. Many Republicans in Congress oppose even negotiating with Iran, and some Democrats — including the influential Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the front-runner to ascend to Senate Democratic leader — have expressed concerns over the president's striking a deal without congressional input.

"On Iran, there are both Democrats who feel the White House's proposed interim deal is not tough enough and puts allies like Israel and Gulf states at risk, and those who feel the Congress should have more say over any ultimate deal," said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and editor of Foreign Policy Group, a collection of foreign policy publications.

The measure that was approved Tuesday is a compromise worked out between committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland. Earlier versions would have given Congress more time to review a deal with Iran and would have required Iran to publicly renounce terrorism.

The White House has strongly opposed similar measures, saying that they would have let Congress "stall," effectively scuttling any agreement, and that it's unrealistic to expect Tehran to make such a publicly humiliating statement.

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that the current measure appeared to ensure that negotiators would "have the time and space that's necessary to reach an agreement."

"We've gone from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that's undergone substantial revision such that it's now in the form of a compromise that the president is willing to sign," Earnest said.