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Senators reach bipartisan agreement on Iran oversight bill

Senators wrapped up a deal on a bill that would enable Congress to weigh in on a nuclear agreement with Iran. The White House suggested that under the new revision, the president's veto threat might go away. Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister announced talks for a final deal will begin in April, and insisted again on lifting sanctions all at once. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now: a bipartisan breakthrough to let Congress vote on a final nuclear deal with Iran. A compromise bill won committee approval today 19-0, and a presidential veto threat evaporated.

    News of the compromise came as senators entered a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry.

    Tennessee Republican Bob Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) Tennessee: I believe Congress should play a role in ensuring that all the details that need to be in place are there, and that, on behalf of the American people, before the congressionally- mandated sanctions are lifted, that we on their behalf ensure that this is something that holds Iran accountable, is enforceable, and certainly is very transparent.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That was echoed by Corker's opposite number on the committee, ranking Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland.

    SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D) Maryland: I think this is the right way for Congress to be — to take up this issue. I think this is congressional prerogative and we're the ones who imposed the sanctions. We're the ones who are going to have to take it up for permanent changes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Under the compromise, Congress will have 30 days to review a final nuclear deal with Iran. If it disapproves the deal, the president gets 12 days to veto that action. Then, Congress has 10 days to try to override any veto.

    But the congressional review period reverts to 60 days if a final agreement with Iran comes after July 9. That's nine days past the negotiators' deadline. Senate supporters have been working to make sure the measure would garner a veto-proof majority of 67 votes.

    But the White House suggested today a veto is no longer in the cards.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    We have gone from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that's undergone — that's undergone substantial revision, such that it is now in a form of a compromise that the president would be willing to sign.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That set the stage for this afternoon's unanimous vote in the Foreign Relations Committee, while, in Madrid, Spain:

  • MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran:

    I think we are, in fact, close to an agreement.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Iran's foreign minister announced talks on the final deal will begin April 21. But he insisted again on lifting economic sanctions all at once, something the U.S. has rejected.

  • MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

    Whatever happens inside the U.S. and however they want to spin it, all the sanctions, economic and financial sanctions that have been imposed on Iran by the U.N., by the E.U. and by the United States must go in the first stage.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All of which suggests negotiators still have a way to go before there's any agreement for Congress to review.

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