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Corker on CNN’s “State of the Union”: Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act Restricts President Obama’s “Free Hand” to Implement a Final Nuclear Agreement with Iran

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said enactment of his congressional review legislation would restrict President Obama’s “free hand” to implement a final nuclear agreement with Iran, if one is reached. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously to approve the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 that requires the president to submit any final deal to Congress before being able to waive or suspend congressional sanctions. Having withdrawn his veto threat due to increasing bipartisan support for the bill, the president was forced on Friday to dispute his previous arguments that congressional action would derail the negotiations.

“[R]ight now, the president has [an] absolute free hand to implement [a final agreement with Iran],” said Corker. “What Senator Cardin, myself, [and] so many others on the committee…have been pushing for…is our ability, on behalf of the American people, to make sure that [a final agreement] is transparent,…that Iran is [held] accountable, and that we have the ability to enforce [it]. I think this is a minimum that we ought to be doing. I am thankful that it looks like we are at least beginning in a very strong position to move [the Iran bill] to the floor, and I hope it will become law.”

Corker also warned that without the president being required to submit a final deal to Congress, the American people may never know what restrictions would be placed on Iran’s nuclear program and how the United States would implement and enforce an agreement.

“[A]t present, right now, the leadership in Iran is telling their citizens one thing. Our president and others are telling us another,” Corker said. “The only way we will ever know what are the details [and] understand what is in the classified annexes, is for us to pass these pieces of legislation that are before us, because, otherwise, we may never know until way after the fact exactly what the agreement is.”

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 contains the following key provisions:

Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement and all related materials, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.

No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions During Review Period: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for up to 52 days after submitting the agreement to Congress. Following an initial review period of 30 days, the legislation includes an additional 12 if Congress passes a bill and sends it to the president. If the president vetoes the legislation, Congress would have an additional 10 days to override a veto. If the deal is submitted between July 10 and September 7, the review period increases to 82 days (60 days plus 12 days for the president to veto and 10 more days for Congress to override a veto). During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (over a presidential veto) within the review period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.

Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to provide an assessment to Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the agreement. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement. It also requires the president to make a series of detailed reports to Congress on a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missiles work, and its support for terrorism globally, particularly against Americans and our allies. With this information, Congress will be able to determine the appropriate response in the event of Iran sponsoring an act of terrorism against Americans.

The legislation was coauthored by Senators Corker, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Cosponsors of the bill include Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D- Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Angus King (I-Maine), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dean Heller (R-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mark Warner (R-Va.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Thune (R-S.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

For full text of the bill as reported by the committee, click here.