House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday he is preparing to bring legislation to the House floor in the near future that would give Congress an oversight role in ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The bill would be a companion to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), which is set to go through markup Tuesday. Corker's bill would grant Congress the power to weigh in on any final nuclear deal worked out between the White House and Iran. It would also prevent President Barack Obama from waiving economic sanctions against Iran for 60 days while Congress reviews the agreement.
McCarthy told reporters on Monday that he had spoken to Corker earlier in the day, and said that the senator “feels his [bill] is moving very strongly."
“If he is able to get his agreement and get it out of the Senate, it is my intention to bring it to the floor of the House and move it,” McCarthy said.
The House has deferred to the Senate to lead the congressional response to the framework deal that the U.S. and five other countries recently reached with Iran.
McCarthy said the question of whether the companion legislation reaches a veto-proof majority in the House depends heavily on how much support Corker's bill receives.
The majority leader expressed optimism that the bill would pass by a large margin in the Senate, which he said would make the House vote much stronger.
“I think they are going to have a very high number,” McCarthy predicted of the Senate vote.
The legislation will need a veto-proof majority if lawmakers in the House and Senate want to have a say in the final deal, since the Obama administration strongly opposes the Corker bill. The president has forcefully lobbied against the bill, arguing that it restricts his administration's negotiating ability and could harm ongoing efforts to reach a final deal.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated Monday that Obama will not sign the bill if it makes it through Congress and arrives on his desk.
"The legislation, as it's currently written, is a piece of legislation that president would absolutely veto," Earnest said in his daily briefing.
Earnest singled out a portion of the bill that the administration finds particularly problematic: a provision that makes the deal contingent on Iran renouncing its support for terrorism. The White House considers the provision unrealistic and wants to keep such issues separate from the nuclear deal.
The press secretary also said that communications between the White House and Capitol Hill on the subject have been extensive, noting that there have been more than 130 calls from the administration to members of Congress.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will also brief all House members Monday evening on the details of the deal’s framework. McCarthy said he expects the briefing to be “one of the most filled" yet.
He echoed the concerns of most of his fellow congressional Republicans over the priorities of the deal and the broader trajectory of the negotiations with Iran.
“I just know from the beginning of where we started with what was lines in the sand have moved back," McCarthy said. "A lot of the questions will be, why have you moved back, and will Iran ever be able to have the capability of having a nuclear weapon? That’s a key question."
He added that questions over the number of centrifuges, Iran's ballistic missile program and its government's role in supporting terrorism around the world will be big sticking points during the briefing.
Currently in the Senate, Corker needs at least three more Democrats to support his bill before it reaches a veto-proof majority of 67 votes.
Adding further uncertainty, a number of Senate Democrats and Republicans are proposing amendments to the bill, which could complicate its ability to move forward.
Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.
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