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White House would accept current version of Iran bill

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to deliver remarks on the ongoing negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program on April 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. In exchange for Iran's agreement to curb their country's nuclear proliferation, the United States would lift some of the crippling sanctions imposed. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee, Getty Images

The White House now says that the Senate bill on the Iran nuclear deal in its current form is the "kind of compromise the president would be willing to sign." Just a day earlier, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president would veto the legislation.

In the interceding day, Earnest said some of White House's concerns have been removed from the bill or modified. For instance, a 60-day review period for implementing the Iran nuclear agreement has been reduced to 30 days, a duration Earnest characterized as "not unreasonable." Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, kept in close touch with the White House as he negotiated a compromise bill with his Republican counterpart, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

Cardin told reporters Tuesday that the revised bill "is an orderly and thoughtful way for Congress to review the agreement put forward by the president." He added, "I've listened to the White House on some of their major concerns, and we were able to resolve some of their concerns that we think aren't related to the primary purposes of the bill."

The president would have 12 days to veto the bill, and Congress would then have 10 days to override that veto. The bill is currently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, still a long way from the president's desk.

"The other thing that we would want members of the committee in bipartisan fashion to confirm is that this piece of legislation would be the one and only mechanism for codifying precisely what the appropriate congressional oversight is into this matter and to be specific about the way that Congress would vote on the sanctions Congress put into place," Earnest said. This would prevent what Earnest called an "untoward effort" to quash the deal.

If passed, the bill would give Congress the right to vote on whether to remove congressionally-mandated sanctions on Iran. Such a vote would occur after the administration finishes negotiating with the Iranians on their nuclear program. The bill would not be a vote on whether to enact the Iran nuclear agreement, something the White House believes is the sole purview of the president.

The administration has made more than 130 calls in the last two weeks to members of Congress, and President Obama spoke to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, last week.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also indicated he would support for the bill Tuesday afternoon. Republicans also expressed support for the bill, with Chairman Corker saying, "I think this is a really sound piece of legislation, I'm very proud of it, and it's my hope that it will pass overwhelmingly." House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday before the agreement was announced that "Congress absolutely should have the opportunity to review this deal. We shouldn't just count on the administration, who appear to want a deal at any cost."

U.S. negotiators, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, reached the framework of a deal with Iran to limit their nuclear program in exchange for sanction relief. The deadline for a final agreement with Iran is June 30th.