U.S. Senate to vote on Iran bill after deadline

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman agreed to push back a vote on the bill until two weeks after the March 31 deadline

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A U.S. Senate committee will vote April 14 on a bipartisan measure requiring President Barack Obama to submit any international nuclear deal with Iran for congressional review, the legislation’s authors said Thursday.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and top panel Democrat Robert Menendez agreed to push back a vote on the controversial bill until two weeks beyond the March 31 deadline negotiators set for the outlines of an accord between Iran and world powers aimed at preventing the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.

“We have been working together very closely to ensure we have the strongest vote possible on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and to achieve that result we have agreed to a markup of the bill...as soon as we return on Tuesday, April 14,” the senators said in a statement.

Earlier this year, amid intense congressional debate over how to pressure Tehran toward a lasting deal that bars it from developing a bomb, a group of Democrats warned they would not vote in support of the bipartisan bill until after March 24, to give the negotiations a chance to succeed.

The Corker-Menendez bill would require Obama to submit any deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- to Congress, which would have 60 days to review the accord and, if it so decided, to reject it.

The legislation is distinct from a new sanctions effort that would tighten economic penalties on Iran in the event an accord is not achieved or Tehran violates the deal.

Thursday’s announcement virtually assures that Congress will take no vote regarding Iran’s nuclear program until after the March 31 deadline.

President Barack Obama’s administration has warned that congressional action at the height of negotiations could infuriate Iran and provide it with an excuse to pull out of talks.