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Top House Democrats Warming to Senate’s Iran Bill

Pelosi and Hoyer are open to the Senate's Iran bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Pelosi and Hoyer are open to the Senate's Iran bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The top two House Democrats are warming to the Iran legislation that will likely come to their chamber floor if it passes the Senate.  

On Tuesday afternoon, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer signaled — to a gaggle of reporters and in a written statement, respectively — they aren’t dead-set against a bill that had just sailed, 19-0, out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It should come as positive news to House GOP leaders, who were all but threatening earlier Tuesday to bring up the Senate’s bill whether Democrats liked it or not.  

“I believe that Congress has a responsibility to review any final agreement with Iran, and this bill will achieve that goal — setting up a carefully-constructed review period to ensure that a deal meets expectations and prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Hoyer said in his statement. ”  

“Some of us don’t think legislation is necessary,” Pelosi said. “From what I’ve seen so far [of the Senate bill], it’s pretty innocuous.”  

As reported to the full Senate, the bill would give Congress the right to disapprove of the final nuclear deal being negotiated by the so-called P5+1 group. Between the time the bill was introduced and the time it went to committee markup, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., worked with ranking member Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., to revise some of the more contentious provisions.  

The bill that won committee approval Tuesday no longer includes controversial language requiring certification that Iran is not materially supporting terrorist attacks against U.S. interests. It also shortens the congressional review period from 60 days to a maximum of 52.  

The Obama administration had been lobbying Congress to wait until the final details of the agreement are hammered out by the June 30 deadline, arguing up until this point that passing Corker’s bill before would undermine negotiations.  

But now President Barack Obama is no longer threatening a veto of the Corker-Cardin compromise bill, which might let Democrats support the measure.  

Pelosi wondered whether the veto threat had an impact on Corker’s willingness to work with his Democratic counterpart to adjust the bill text: “It certainly produced a bill that would be more palatable to our members.”  

Corker, for his part, suggested that Obama was the one capitulating on his position.  

Pelosi on Tuesday wasn’t ready to say whether the full House Democratic Caucus would ultimately rally behind the bill.  

“I’m listening to the caucus and see what they want to do,” she said. “All they want to do is be sure we have an agreement in the end, and give the president the strongest possible hand to negotiate.”  

Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.

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