Democrats unite with Republicans against Iran deal
Democrats are aligning with Republicans to support a bill giving US Congress the opportunity to approve or reject sanctions relief in an Iran nuclear deal, and are close to forming a veto-proof majority that President Obama says could undermine the delicate final stage of negotiations.
The support for the legislation by lawmakers in Mr Obama's party illustrates the depth of concern in Washington over the threat posed by Iran and the concern of many lawmakers that they are being shut out of the process to contain it.
In the wake of last week's announcement of an initial accord between Tehran and major world powers, senators are reaffirming their backing for the bipartisan bill and seeking ways to make the bill more palatable for the White House.
The Democrats, along with Republicans who control Congress, are pressing ahead despite White House claims that Mr Obama alone has the power to negotiate and implement the evolving agreement that would see Iran curb its nuclear programme in exchange for phasing out crippling sanctions.
The deadline for a final deal is June 30.
The White House confirmed that Mr Obama intended to veto the bill in its current form.
Even though Congress is in the midst of a spring break, Democratic senators have been toiling on the bill being crafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, that could be approved by the panel next week.
"There's no way that Congress should allow the congressional sanctions regime to be negotiated away without saying a word," Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who helped Mr Corker write the legislation but who also supports the administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran, said.
Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the most influential Democrats and a co-sponsor of Corker's bill, has reaffirmed his support for a congressional role.
"I strongly believe Congress should have the right to disapprove any agreement and I support the Corker bill which would allow that to occur," he said on Monday.
Sen. Schumer, who is Jewish and represents New York with its more than 1.5 million Jews, is the third-ranking Senate Democrat and is expected to take over the party leadership in the chamber in 2017.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has railed against what he calls a "bad deal" and says Iran's nuclear ambitions are an existential threat to his country.
Under Corker's bill, Congress would have 60 days to review the agreement, during which sanctions relief would be suspended and lawmakers could vote on whether to approve or reject sanctions measures. Corker has already agreed to change the wording so that a lack of action by Congress would count as approving the deal, and that Congress could only weigh in on relief of congressional sanctions, not the entire deal.