Last week, in a spirit of political compromise that has been in short supply for the past several years, the Obama administration and senators from both parties agreed to an oversight role for Congress in connection with any final deal with Iran on its nuclear program. In a unanimous vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed an amended version of the Iran Oversight Bill. While the original legislation — known as the Corker-Menendez bill after its chief sponsors, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) — had bipartisan support, it wasn’t clear whether that bill had sufficient support to override the veto President Obama promised to invoke. But the amended bill was something the president said he could live with.
The compromise is significant because it will allow Congress to have a say on the terms of any proposed agreement without delaying the process. Thus, Congress will have 30 days to review the proposed deal. If it votes to reject the agreement, the president will have 12 days to veto the decision. Thereafter, Congress will have 12 more days to try to override the veto. After that, Congress can pass no new legislation about the Iran agreement.
With Obama so heavily invested in the outcome of negotiations with Iran, Senate Democrats were reluctant to support anything that might scuttle an agreement. But with the president withdrawing his veto threat, Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee were free to sign on.
We applaud the agreement. It demonstrates how representative government and oppositional politics should work. Instead of seeing gridlock, we witnessed the collaborative advancement of interests. This was accomplished in large part because the compromise shifted the focus from an outright rejection of the Iran deal to subjecting any adjustment of congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran to legislative oversight. And it removed the unachievable requirement that the president certify that Iran does not support terrorism against the United States. These changes brought Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) aboard.
Several people deserve credit for this compromise. One is Corker, who, as the committee’s chair, worked hard to make the bill more palatable to Democrats. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who stepped into the ranking member’s role after Menendez resigned from the post, deserves significant praise as well. His calm demeanor, pragmatic and nonconfrontational style helped deliver his party. Finally, credit goes to the president himself, who when it became clear that a bipartisan consensus was forming, chose not to insist on his previously articulated maximalist position.
Now, with everyone on board, the focus shifts to the Herculean task of ensuring that the world emerges safer from beneath the specter of a nuclear Iran. That is a goal on which everyone should be able to agree.