Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said the White House’s about-face on his Iran legislation is likely because they were about to lose.
The White House went Tuesday from vowing to veto the Corker-Menendez Iran bill to backing an emerging compromise, with caveats. “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 is now in a form of a compromise that the president would be willing to sign,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. He cautioned the bill still needs to go through markup.
But Corker, in a hallway interview, suggested the White House was spinning.
“I’ve had no conversations with the White House about the substance of the bill. I’ve had only push back, even in the Kerry presentation. … My sense is they know this thing has run away and very likely is going to go well beyond the veto threat,” the Tennessee Republican said in reference to the bill likely getting more than the 67 votes needed to override the president.
While Earnest cited several changes to the bill sought by the White House and noted it was not a vote on the potential Iran deal itself but a vote to vote in the future on Iran sanctions, Corker denied the bill was significantly different.
“This has always been what it is,” the Tennessee Republican said. “This is the same legislation they’ve always opposed. … They are spinning you mightily. It has always been a vote on the sanctions. They are spinning you guys.”
Earnest said the agreement negotiated by Foreign Relations ranking member Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., would address a large number of the White House’s concerns.
“But the reason I’m hesitant here is that I don’t want to get ahead of the committee markup process; that there is important work that they need to do and frankly, we need to see that they’re prepared to commit to it and we need to be prepared to see that Democrats and Republicans are going to be prepared to commit to this,” he added.
Cardin said he’s spoken with the White House and the emerging bill would focus on its original intent without extraneous items.
Among the items Earnest said needed to come out was a “requirement for the administration to certify that Iran has not backed terrorism against Americans,” Earnest said.
“This idea that we could essentially get Iran to renounce terrorism is unrealistic,” he said.
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