Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is among the most prominent Democratic supporters of the Corker-Menendez bill on Iran. He may be one of the most important players in determining whether it passes and what it ultimately looks like — which in turn could help influence whether a final Iran deal is reached and goes forward.
Critics fear Corker-Menendez could prematurely scuttle the whole negotiation process. The bill would suspend for 65 days President Obama’s authority to temporarily lift sanctions, pending a Congressional vote to approve or disapprove the final deal, and would require the president to certify Iranian compliance on several fronts, including whether Iran has directly supported an act of terrorism against Americans or American interests. Critics say this latter provision risks killing a deal later by introducing an element unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program.
Some Senate Dems will push amendments to change or eliminate the terrorism provision during the bill’s mark-up next week, but it’s unclear whether Republicans will acccept them. Critics also say a vote on the bill now could persuade Iranians that Congress will not allow the president to deliver on our end of the bargain later, perhaps upending sensitive negotiations.
I asked Kaine to respond to all of the criticisms. A lightly edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.