WH: Terrorism Provision in Corker Bill Designed to ‘Undermine’ Nuclear Agreement

Patrick Goodenough | April 8, 2015 | 4:16am EDT
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Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., says the committee will consider his bill seeking a congressional review of the Iran nuclear deal when Congress resumes on April 14. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(CNSNews.com) – A terrorism-related provision in a bill seeking congressional review of the Iran nuclear deal is “intended to undermine the agreement,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday, citing that as one reason for the administration’s opposition to the legislation.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act would prohibit the administration from suspending sanctions against Iran for 60 days, during which Congress could hold hearings before approving, rejecting, or taking no action on the nuclear agreement.

It would further require the president to certify every three months that Iran has not breached the agreement, taken any action to “significantly advance” a nuclear weapons program, or “directly supported, financed, planned, or carried out an act of terrorism against the United States.”

The White House has threatened to veto the legislation – also known as the Corker bill after its chief sponsor, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

At Tuesday's daily briefing, Earnest raised the terrorism issue.

“Specifically incorporated into the Corker legislation is a provision that essentially makes the agreement contingent upon Iran renouncing terrorism,” he said.

“Now, that’s an unrealistic suggestion because we’ve been very clear that this agreement is focused on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that it is not going to succeed in resolving the long list of concerns that we have with Iran’s behavior.” He added that those concerns include Iran’s threats against Israel and its detention of American citizens.

“We want to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and inserting a provision like this, that essentially is intended to undermine the agreement in the first place, is why we so strongly oppose – or at least have significant concerns and oppose – the current form of the Corker bill.”

As the administration tries to sell the framework agreement announced in Switzerland last week to skeptical lawmakers, its appeal for Congress not to vote on the Corker legislation faced a setback when the Democrat expected to become Senate Minority Leader next year reiterated his support for the bill.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who joined the bipartisan list of co-sponsors on March 26, confirmed Monday that he continues to support the bill.

Asked at the briefing whether Schumer’s support for the bill despite the president’s opposition suggested that “the sales pitch has fallen flat,” Earnest disagreed.

“The sales pitch has only just begun,” he said. “We continue to be in a position where we want to make sure that members of Congress actually understand what’s included in this agreement – and to understand what significant commitments we obtained from the Iranians when it comes to scaling back their nuclear program.”

Earnest said that was why the administration has offered to have the chief U.S. nuclear negotiator, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, provide members of the congressional national security committees with a classified briefing on the deal.

“We want to make sure that people consider this agreement on the merits, and if they do so they will understand the wisdom of this principled diplomatic approach.”

Over the next three months, negotiators intend to fill out the framework agreement announced last week, coming up with a final text by June 30.

On Sunday, Corker said that if President Obama believes the agreement “is something that’s good for the nation, surely he can sell this to the United States Senate and the House.”

Corker also confirmed plans for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to consider the bill when Congress resumes on April 14.

And he voiced optimism that he would be able to garner the required veto-proof majority of 67 votes.

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