What's in that Iran bill and why all the fuss about it?

Willie Grace | 4/14/2015, 12:32 p.m.
On Tuesday, the committee will consider amendments to Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker's Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act before deciding ...
Two Western diplomats told CNN Thursday that the parties are narrowing in on 6,000 centrifuges, down from the 6,500 that had been under discussion.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For months, the White House and Congress have wrangled over a bill that would give lawmakers a greater say in the Iran nuclear deal the administration is hammering out along with other world powers.

And now, less than two weeks after a framework agreement with Tehran was reached, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to take up the measure.

On Tuesday, the committee will consider amendments to Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker's Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act before deciding whether to have the full Senate vote on it.

For many in Congress, it's a very simple premise: Congress should weigh in on the terms of a final nuclear deal with Iran.

But for the White House, and some Democrats in Congress, that's an explosive idea that could derail the talks --- and therefore must be stopped.

So what's in the bill?

Supporters of the legislation have emphasized that it would allow Congress to give a thumbs up or down on the deal President Barack Obama is aiming to finalize with Iran by the negotiations' June 30 deadline. Backers think that's only fair since the United States is contemplating a major nuclear pact with a decadeslong enemy.

The bill would give Congress a chance to hold hearings, host briefings and pave the way to a vote on a joint resolution that could express approval or disapproval of the deal. It also requires the Obama administration to quickly report to Congress on details of the deal and regularly assess whether Iran is keeping its commitments. And it spells out what the President needs to do vis-a-vis Congress if Iran is found violating the terms.

But most important, it would keep President Barack Obama from waiving any congressional sanctions on Iran during Congress' 60-day review period. And if Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval, then sanctions could not be lifted even after that time.

Does this hurt the diplomatic effort to reach a final deal?

Iran's primary reason for agreeing to the deal's limits on its nuclear program is to get sanctions relief.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have insisted sanctions must be lifted on day one of the deal. While the Obama administration has said it would wait several months before lifting sanctions -- to verify that Iran has taken major steps to roll back its program --- the President is counting on having some latitude to waive sanctions in order to give Iran an incentive to sign the deal and then keep its commitments.

The Corker bill makes it less likely sanctions would be lifted, and lifted in a timely way, which gives less encouragement to Iran.

Without the bill, could Obama lift all sanctions on Iran?

Not all, but most --- at least for a limited time.

Without the Corker-Menendez bill (named after Corker and lead Democratic co-sponsor Sen. Bob Menendez), Iran could see nearly all nuclear-related sanctions at least temporarily lifted. Those enacted through the United Nations and by presidential executive order could be fully removed, and most of those passed by Congress could be waived by Obama until he leaves office, when they would go back into effect unless the next president continues to waive them.