TIME Marco Rubio

The Marco Rubio Amendment That Could Kill the Iran Deal

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed a change to the Iran nuclear review bill that could unravel a carefully crafted compromise and kill the Obama Administration’s negotiations.

At issue is a one-page amendment from the Florida Republican and 2016 presidential candidate that would certify as part of the deal that Iran’s leaders have publicly accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, a proposal earlier pushed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Earlier this month, President Obama rejected that idea. “The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms,” the president told NPR. “And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment. I want to return to this point: We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing. That’s exactly why we don’t want to have nuclear weapons.”

Many Republicans support the idea, however, while some influential Democrats, such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, have declined to comment on any amendments.

“If it gets offered, that’s a very hard vote because we all support Israel’s right to exist and Iran recognizing that,” says South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune. “I think that’s awfully hard to vote against but we’ll see how it is structured and if it happens or not.”

After 18 months of negotiations, U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and Iran struck a framework agreement on April 2 to limit Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for reducing economic sanctions. The negotiators now have about two months to meet their June 30 deadline to seal a comprehensive accord and find a compromise to major issues, including the level of enriched uranium Iran is allowed to stockpile and the pace of the repealed sanctions.

The bipartisan Senate bill prevents the president from waiving Congress’ economic sanctions against Iran for up to 52 days after submitting the agreement’s text to Congress. The Obama Administration had pushed back on the congressional oversight but relented after changes to the bill and evidence that the bill would receive a wave of support. On Tuesday, Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin announced that their bill has a veto-proof 67 co-sponsors.

But Cardin and others believe that Rubio could upend the bill if he introduces his controversial amendment for a vote. The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is taking Obama’s side in fear that it might bring the overall deal down, according to Thune. An AIPAC official told TIME that they are requesting senators to “bear in mind” the need to retain consensus and to “refrain from supporting provisions that could harm that bipartisan support.” The official added that AIPAC is supporting the leadership of Corker and Cardin, who says that the Rubio amendment could do three things: derail the bill, hurt the Administration’s negotiations and help Iran. “All three are horrible results,” says Cardin.

Corker urged his Republican colleagues during lunch Tuesday to understand the precious balance of the deal.

“Let’s not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here,” Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, told TIME.

Rubio’s office declined to comment.

TIME White House

Here’s Everything You Want to Know About Tuesday’s State Dinner

Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe
Jacquelyn Martin—AP President Barack Obama hosts a state arrival ceremony for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, April 28, 2015, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

From what they'll eat to what they'll eat it on to who's singing after dinner

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host their eighth state dinner on Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie.

Following a day of press conferences and pomp, the Obama’s will hold the dinner to “mirror the celebration of springtime in Washington, D.C..” The dinner itself is designed to show Japanese-American fusion, with guest chef Masharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame, who was formally trained in Japan but grew to prominence at Nobu in New York.

It’ll be quite the affair, to say the least. And here’s everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about it.

The décor

The windows of 1600 Pennsylvania will be decorated with crystal curtains meant to embody both springtime rain and the fleeting beauty of the area’s cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms have been sprucing up the National Mall at the beginning of spring since Japan gifted two trees to the United States in 1912. The more than 300 guests to Tuesday’s dinner will be served on new china outfitted with a band of “Kailua Blue,” chosen by the First Lady as a nod to the cool Pacific waters of Hawaii. The 11-piece setting also includes a recreation of decoration that appears on china purchased by President James Madison. The china will be used for the first time on Tuesday.

The meal

The Obamas will toast their guests with a round of Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo sake, a renowned brew of the rice-based alcohol. The first course is a “Toro Tartare and Caesar Sashimi Salad” that the White House says will come “wrapped in a clear acetate and tied with a Mizuhuki cord emulating a gift to be opened.” They’ll follow it up with a “Vegetable Consomme En Croute and Shikai Maki” and a Main Course of “American Wagyu Beef Tenderloin” served with spring vegetables and a 2010 Morlet Pinot Noir. For dessert, silken tofu and soymilk custard cake served with fresh fruit and syrup made from honey from the south grounds. They’ll end the meal with a “sip of tea,” a petit four formation styled in honor of Japanese tea and cherry blossoms.

The entertainment

The Obama’s will end Tuesday’s dinner party with a performance by the singers and stars of the Broadway hit-turned-film Jersey Boys. The film’s stars including Erich Bergen and Vincent Piazza will join John Lloyd Young, Michael Lomenda, and Tommy Faragher of stage productions in song.

The guests

TBD! The White House has not yet released the official guest list.

TIME trade

Meet the Critics of President Obama’s Trade Deal

Barack Obama speaks at a ceremony at CIA headquarters in McLean, Va. on April 24, 2015.
Kevin Dietsch—dpa/Corbis Barack Obama speaks at a ceremony at CIA headquarters in McLean, Va. on April 24, 2015.

Republicans in Congress are poised to give President Obama broad powers to cement a legacy-defining free trade deal with Pacific countries.

Backed by major conservative and business groups, bills to grant the president fast-track authority passed through Republican-led House and Senate committees last week with enough Senate Democratic support for eventual passage, unless the bill changes dramatically on its way to a final vote or Republican support crumbles.

Not every member of the GOP on Capitol Hill is gung ho about the idea. It’s unclear exactly how many, but estimates of GOP opponents range from as few as a dozen to two dozen to as many as 60, according to various news reports. The lower estimates are likely not enough, but the higher ones could sink the bill, which is designed to allow Obama to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trade deal that would affect about a third of the world’s trade.

Critics fear that fast-track authority would further exacerbate income inequality and cut deeper into a manufacturing sector that bled millions of jobs last decade. Ohio Rep. David Joyce said he doesn’t understand why his fellow Republicans support trade promotion authority (or TPA) — which would limit debate in Congress by allowing the president to negotiate deals that could only be voted up or down without amendment — when they oppose Obama’s negotiations on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“I find it sort of humorous that they don’t trust the president on Iran or anything else but they’ll trust him with TPA, which I think could really do severe damage to our country and to manufacturing as a whole,” says Joyce, who counts himself among about a dozen GOP opponents.

Tucked in between Cleveland and Akron and spread into the northeast tip of the state, Joyce’s district boasts a manufacturing economy composed of 1,500 companies responsible for around 65,400 jobs and $930 million in wages, according to his office. “I never believed the president had this authority to begin with,” says Joyce. “So you start with that premise. And then in the last 28 months as I’ve worked the district, I’ve learned more and more manufacturers say this just hasn’t worked for us.”

Some pro-trade economists criticize opponents like Joyce for listening to politically active but less important sectors of their state. Two of the top five industries that gave the most money to Joyce’s reelection campaign last year were manufacturing companies and transportation unions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And while the manufacturing sector employs about 13 percent of his state’s workforce, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, a fierce TPA opponent, tells TIME that the industry “matters to us as much or more than other state in the country.”

“I’m sure Ohio thinks of itself as a manufacturing state,” says Gary Clyde Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It’s not. Nobody is today. Manufacturing is down to about 11% of employment in the U.S.”

“There are many strong service industries in the US which will export abroad who are totally underrepresented in the political debate,” he adds. “The political debate is all centered on manufacturing and agriculture. And services, which is two thirds of our economy, is pretty well forgotten.”

The TPP deal the Administration has been negotiating for nearly five years would affect a broad swath of international law concerning a host of issues including those concerning labor, the environment, intellectual property, agriculture, data exclusivity and investor-state arbitration among others. Peter Petri, a Brandeis University professor of international finance whose models have been used by the Chamber of Commerce, says that the Trans Pacific Partnership will set the “benchmark” for global trade rules in relatively new areas in the services, investment and internet industries in which America has a competitive advantage.

“Global rules are becoming steadily less relevant in these areas because they were negotiated 20 years ago,” Petri tells TIME. “So we are heading for anarchy of sorts, with big countries deciding on an ad hoc basis on how to deal with each new technology, transaction and company, based on their narrow, short-term advantage. For the US, this may mean keeping a few more jobs in low-wage industries, but it will frustrate our most important global industries, and probably weaken the world economy for everyone.”

But even by Petri’s calculations the macroeconomic effect for the trade deal would be modest, adding about $77 billion per year to U.S. real incomes by 2025. And there will be winners — sophisticated equipment manufacturers for everything from turbines to medical equipment to heavy earth-moving machines — and losers, including producers of furniture and basic consumer electronics, according to Hufbauer. A Peterson Institute study says the U.S. manufacturing sector will contract by $44 billion, while companies in the services industry will expand by $79 billion.

Brown, who wears a canary in a cage pin to display his solidarity with workers’ rights, argues that TPP will be a disaster, with broad, long-lasting negative consequences for both his state and country.

“Fundamentally what these trade agreements have done is encouraged companies to follow business plans, which were sort of unknown until 20 years ago, where you shut down production in Steubenville or Toledo and move it to Wuhan or Mexico City and sell the products back into the United States,” says Brown.

“They talk about increased exports, but that’s a lot like saying well the Tigers got 5 runs, but the Indians got 7,” adds Brown of the United States Trade Representative office, which has been lobbying Democrats. “So you’ve got to talk exports-imports and every trade agreement we pass, we end up losing more jobs — good-paying manufacturing jobs, often union jobs, sometimes not.”

The debate will only heat up in next several weeks when TPA heads to the floor of the Senate and House. While Boehner and other Republicans in leadership continue to push the bill, Brown will headline an AFL-CIO event in Cleveland on May 4 in protest. Meanwhile Joyce will lay low — he doesn’t plan on attending any trade-specific events back home next week.

TIME Nepal

U.S. Sends Personnel, Funds to Aid in Nepal Relief Effort

About 70 USAID workers and humanitarian personnel are expected to arrive on Monday

The U.S. government is sending troops and aid to Nepal as the nation struggles to recover from a massive earthquake that killed thousands.

As the days go by and death tolls tick up, the need is only expected to grow. As of Monday, officials say 4,000 were killed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near the capital of Kathmandu on Saturday. The Nepalese government has declared a state of emergency and the international community has joined in the response effort.

A spokesperson for the Nepalese army told the Associated Press that 90 percent of its 100,000 troops are involved in search-and-rescue efforts and assisting the more than 7,000 people injured in the quakes. “We don’t have the helicopters that we need or the expertise to rescue the people trapped,” said Lila Mani Poudyal, the Nepalese government’s Chief Secretary, who noted a demand for “tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses and 80 different medicines.”

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement of condolences Saturday and announced that the U.S. would be joining in the effort to help Nepal recover.

“To the people in Nepal and the region affected by this tragedy we send our heartfelt sympathies. The United States stands with you during this difficult time,” Kerry’s statement reads.

About 70 American personnel and 45 square tons of supplies are expected to reach Nepal on Monday, according to the Department of Defense. The bulk of those traveling to the country are members of the U.S. Agency for International Development Disaster Assistance Response Team including humanitarians and rescue workers from Fairfax County.

Secretary of State John Kerry also announced Monday the U.S. government is sending an additional $9 million to aid in the relief effort, bringing the total funds sent thus far to $10 million.

“The images that everybody has seen are gut-wrenching. Extraordinary devastation, young children carried away in ambulances, whole villages reduced to rubble,” Kerry said Monday during a joint-press conference with his Japanese counterparts. “We are working very closely with the government of Nepal to provide assistance and support.”

Read next: See the Most Dramatic Rescue From the Nepal Earthquake

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME White House

Obama Says Elizabeth Warren Is ‘Wrong’ on Trade

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers remarks during the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference at the Washington Hilton on April 13, 2015 in Washington.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) delivers remarks during the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 13, 2015

After months of simmering, backroom disagreements between the White House and the liberal, populist base of the Democratic Party about the issue of free trade, President Barack Obama went on the offensive Tuesday.

In an interview with MSNBC, Obama said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and her supporters are “wrong” to think that the White House’s signature free-trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, would be bad for the American economy. The sweeping 12-nation accord, which would become the largest free-trade pact in U.S. history, would open up borders between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Japan and Australia, and is supported by a wide variety of business groups and most Republicans.

“I love Elizabeth,” Obama told host Chris Matthews. “We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this.”

Warren, a longtime ally of the President and a populist hero in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, has been a vocal opponent of the deal, which Congress is expected to vote on soon. Liberal groups and labor leaders have also publicly protested the deal on the grounds that it would exacerbate inequality and lead to fewer American jobs.

“U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is out there saying things like this about the trade agreement: ‘It’s going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind,'” Matthews said to Obama. “She also says it challenges U.S. sovereignty.”

“They are throwing the kitchen sink at this trade agreement which will involve 11 nations and ourselves on the Pacific Rim,” he continued. “Why are they saying these things?”

“Chris, think about it,” Obama responded. “I’ve spent the last 6½ years yanking this economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Every single thing I’ve done from the Affordable Care Act to pushing to raise the minimum wage to making sure that young people are able to go to college and get good job training to what we’re pushing now in terms of sick pay leave … Everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal. Now I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class.”

“And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is,” the President continued, “when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”

The full interview will air on MSNBC’s Hardball at 7 p.m. E.T.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House Standoff With Congress Over Iran Bill Not Over

Obama must now sell the deal to skeptical lawmakers

(WASHINGTON) — Legislation empowering Congress to reject an emerging Iran nuclear pact is expected to sail through both houses of Congress, leaving President Barack Obama with the tough task of selling the deal to skeptical lawmakers.

“I don’t know how you cut a deal with the devil and think the devil is going to keep his end of the deal,” House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday after Obama bowed to pressure from Republicans and Democrats and agreed to sign compromise legislation.

The legislation, unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would give lawmakers a say on what could be a historic deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In exchange, the influential Islamic nation in the Middle East would get relief from economic sanctions stifling its economy.

The rare and reluctant agreement between the president and the Republican-led Congress came after the White House maintained for weeks that congressional interference could jeopardize sensitive negotiations with Tehran. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China reached a preliminary agreement with Iran on April 2 to curb its nuclear program and hope to finalize a pact by June 30.

Despite the resistance from the White House, lawmakers from both parties insisted that Congress have a formal role in reviewing and possibly voting down any deal.

“I have always supported congressional review of any final agreement with Iran,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, who emphasized that the bill will not permit any legislative action until after the White House presents Congress with any final deal that can be reached to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.

“If a final agreement with Iran is received in a timely manner, Congress will have 30 calendar days for an orderly and thoughtful review. If an agreement with Iran goes into effect, then this bill ensures an ongoing oversight role for Congress and provides for expedited procedures to snap back sanctions if Iran breaches the agreement,” Cardin said.

Echoing Boehner’s skepticism, Cardin said “there is no trust when it comes to Iran.” He said that’s why the final agreement must be verifiable and transparent, and that it’s clear that any violations would result in the restoration of the strongest possible sanctions.

The committee approved the compromise bill, 19-0, shortly after White House spokesman Josh Earnest conveyed the president’s decision to remove his veto threat. The bill is now likely to clear both houses of Congress. It’s expected to come before the full Senate as soon as next week.

Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker said Secretary of State John Kerry was lobbying against the measure on Capitol Hill just a few hours before the vote. Corker, R-Tenn., said the White House’s sudden support was dictated by the number of senators — Republicans and Democrats — backing the measure.

“This bill always has been about allowing Congress the opportunity to review any final deal to ensure it is verifiable and enforceable before the president could act to unwind the sanctions that Congress put in place,” said Corker, who pushed his GOP and Democratic colleagues to reach a compromise on a hotly partisan issue.

“I am hopeful that the strong, unanimous vote in the committee will build even more bipartisan support for this legislation in the full Senate and in the House of Representatives.”

The White House said that the changes made to the bill made it possible for Obama to support it. The president’s foreign policy legacy would be burnished by a deal with Iran.

Earnest said the White House is not “particularly thrilled” about the legislation. He said the administration would withhold final judgment on the bill while it works its way through Congress, but that in its current form, Obama would sign it.

“Despite the things about it that we don’t like, enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it,” Earnest said.

Not that much was changed.

The revised bill shortens from 60 to 30 days the time that Congress will have to review any final nuclear deal. (The review period could stretch to more than 80 days depending on various factors, such as when Congress gets details of any agreement.)

During the congressional review period, Obama would be able to lift sanctions imposed through presidential action, but would be blocked from easing any of the sanctions imposed by Congress. Congressional sanctions are among the toughest because they target key Iranian economic sectors and its central bank.

The committee also struck language that would have required the president to certify that Iran was not directly supporting or carrying out terrorism against the U.S. or Americans anywhere in the world. That would be a tall order and the administration opposed that provision. The committee substituted weaker language that underscores congressional concern about Iran’s support of terrorist activities.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., tried to add the certification back in, but his amendment — the only one of the day — was voted down 13 to 6 because proponents of the revised measure deemed it a deal-killer.

Other GOP senators backed off their anti-Iran amendments.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who announced his candidacy for president on Monday, had proposed an amendment that would require Iran’s leaders to accept Israel’s right to exist. Rubio said his amendment probably could have passed in the committee, but ultimately “could imperil the entire arrangement.”

Rubio said the new version has language on Israel that “is better than not having it at all.” He said his original amendment might still come up during a debate by the full Senate.

While the White House and Congress made their way onto the same page with the bill, Obama’s standoff with lawmakers over the Iran nuclear talks is far from over.

If a final deal is reached, Obama still retains his right to veto any attempt by Congress to disapprove it. To override a veto, opponents would have to muster a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, meaning some Democrats would have to oppose their president to undermine a deal.

Shoring up support on the House side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who opposed the original bill as “harmful to the negotiations,” sent a letter to colleagues late Tuesday expressing support for the compromise.

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Removes Cuba From State Sponsor of Terror List

PANAMA-AMERICAS-SUMMIT-CUBA-US-OBAMA-CASTRO
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images Cuba's President Raul Castro, left, speaks during a meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas at the ATLAPA Convention center on April 11, 2015 in Panama City, Panama.

The countries still on the list are Iran, Sudan and Syria

(WASHINGTON) — The White House says President Barack Obama is removing Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a key step in President Barack Obama’s bid to normalize relations between the two countries.

The White House says on Twitter that Obama has submitted to Congress required reports and certifications indicating his intent to take Cuba off the list.

Obama made the final decision following a State Department review of Cuba’s presence on the list.

The U.S. has long since stopped actively accusing Cuba of supporting terrorism.

Cuba was one of four countries on the U.S. list of nations accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism. The countries still on the list are Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Obama announced in December that the U.S. and Cuba were ending a half-century of hostilities.

Read next: Cuba on the Cusp

TIME Foreign Policy

White House Backs Compromise Iran Bill in Senate

Josh Earnest
Carolyn Kaster—AP White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, April 14, 2015.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the Obama administration is withholding final judgment

(WASHINGTON)—The White House abruptly agreed Tuesday to a compromise bill that would ensure that Congress has a say in an emerging nuclear deal with Iran.

Just a few hours after news of a compromise trickled out on Capitol Hill, the White House said that President Barack Obama, who has threatened to veto the bill for weeks, would sign the revised version. The compromise measure, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve Tuesday, would shorten the time that Congress would have to review details of the bill and approve or disapprove of its provisions.

“Maybe they saw the handwriting on the wall,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said about the White House decision to drop its opposition.

It was a reflection of the strong Republican and Democratic push for a congressional review and the skepticism in both parties of an emerging deal. International negotiators are trying to reach a deal that would prevent Iran from being able to develop nuclear weapons. In exchange, Tehran would get relief from economic sanctions that are crippling its economy.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee reached a compromise on the bill as Secretary of State John Kerry and other members of the Cabinet visited Capitol Hill for a second straight day to sell lawmakers on details of a possible final deal and plead for time to reach an accord with Tehran by the end of June.

“This legislation is exactly the congressional review that we’ve been working on from day one,” Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in opening remarks in the committee meeting. “I think this puts Congress in its rightful role.”

Obama, whose foreign policy legacy would be burnished by a deal with Iran, has been in a standoff for months with lawmakers who insist that Congress should have a chance to weigh in and remain skeptical that Iran will honor any agreement.

An earlier version of the bill sought to put any agreement by Obama to lift sanctions on Iran on hold for up to 60 days while Congress reviewed it. The compromise before the committee Tuesday would shorten that delay to 30 days. During that time, Obama would be able to lift sanctions imposed through presidential action, but would be blocked from easing sanctions levied by Congress.

If lawmakers rejected an Iran agreement, the president could still use his veto then.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold final judgment on the bill while it works its way through Congress, wary that potential changes could be made in committee that would render it unpalatable. But he said the White House could support the compromise its current form.

“Despite the things about it that we don’t like, enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it,” Earnest said.

If a deal is submitted after July 9 — a short time after the final agreement is to be reached on June 30 — the review period would revert to 60 days. Under the compromise bill, the president would be required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with terms of any final agreement.

Meanwhile, there was evidence that GOP senators were backing off their anti-Iran amendments.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who announced his candidacy for president on Monday, had proposed an amendment that would require Iran’s leaders to accept Israel’s right to exist. Rubio said his amendment probably could pass in the committee, but ultimately “could imperil the entire arrangement.”

Rubio said the new version has language on Israel that “is better than not having it at all” but that his original amendment “is something we’re going to have to talk about on the floor” during a debate by the full Senate.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he felt confident that the compromises will hold, but said Democrats would withdraw their support if Republicans successfully push amendments that would pull the bill “sharply to the right.” He was referring to amendments proposed by Republicans to make the administration certify that Iran is not supporting terrorism and had publicly renounced its threat to destroy Israel — two hurdles that would be nearly impossible to scale.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she opposed the bill in its original form, but now supports it.

“There’s no longer language in the bill tying extraneous issues (to the bill). That would be a deal breaker,” Boxer said.

TIME Congress

The Republican Senator Who Is Key to the Iran Deal

Sen. Bob Corker
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images Sen. Bob Corker, Senate Foreign Relations chairman, arrives for a briefing on Iran nuclear negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama's chief of staff Jack Lew in the Capitol on April 14, 2015.

Over the next 10 weeks or so, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker can’t afford a mulligan. Lucky for him, according to occasional golfing buddy and Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, he “doesn’t need ‘em.”

In that time, Corker will be “one of the most important people in the world,” as my colleague Massimo Calabresi writes in a magazine profile this week, as he attempts to ensure congressional oversight into a global debate on Iran’s nuclear program the Obama Administration would rather wage on its own.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker has the delicate task of crafting a 67-vote supermajority to beat back a veto threat on his bill, which the Administration has worried could imperil the chances of reaching a final deal by a June deadline. Corker struck a major agreement Tuesday, when the committee will take up his bill and introduce a series of amendments that could endanger consensus. But senators on both sides of the aisle are confident that Corker is well suited to the challenges ahead.

“There’s not a better horse to bet on in the United States Senate than Bob Corker,” says Isakson, a Republican member of the committee.

At first glance, Corker is an unlikely player in international affairs. A successful construction company owner, former Chattanooga mayor and head of Tennessee’s finances, Corker had no foreign policy experience before coming to the Senate in 2007. While a student at the University of Tennessee, Corker wasn’t even interested in politics, according to his roommate, Jimmy Haslam, who used to call Corker “Thor” because he “looked like a little Viking.” But his interests eventually evolved and after an introduction from Haslam, Corker met with Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander in 1993. The pair talked for an hour and a half as they walked down the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina, discussing whether Corker should run for Senate or governor.

“He’s never been afraid of big jumps,” says Alexander, who thinks the two-term senator would be “terrific” as Secretary of either the State or Treasury departments. “In a way he’s perfectly named—Corker.”

Corker popped to the ranking Republican position on the committee in 2013 and became chairman when Republicans took the Senate this year. To overcome his initial lack of expertise, Corker has engaged in policy discussions with numerous foreign policy experts, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who has breakfast with him every two or three months. Corker also travels extensively; he told TIME in February that he had traveled to over 63 countries. Haslam, now the owner of the Cleveland Browns, says his longtime friend flies commercial on his trips to the Middle East with usually one staff member. “Bob’s not a hot dog,” says Haslam. “He gets the job done.”

Corker’s temperament may serve him well as debate over U.S. foreign policy no longer ends at the water’s edge. Democrats are still smarting from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s direct letter to Iranian leaders and House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress. One of seven Republicans who didn’t sign Cotton’s letter, Corker has garnered praise from Democrats. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on Corker’s committee, calls Corker a “serious legislator” and an “ideal fit” for the panel’s chairmanship.

“I think that he is trying to use that position in the best tradition of the U.S. Senate to bring as much unity on behalf of foreign policy as possible,” Cardin told TIME last week. “And recognizing that’s challenging today, I think he’s done a really good job on his bill on the congressional oversight of the nuclear agreement. It’s one in which I hope we can find common ground. I think we’re very close to that.”

Introduced with Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Tim Kaine and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham as cosponsors, Corker’s bipartisan bill threads the needle by establishing an order of review, preventing the president from waiving Congress’ economic sanctions against Iran for 30 days, according to a Corker aide, and up to 52 days if Congress passes a bill and the president vetoes it. If the deal is submitted late, after July 9, the review period reverts to 60 days, according to the aide. If President Obama accepts it, the Administration would be required to tell Congress every 90 days if Iran is still keeping up its end.

“We have reached a bipartisan agreement that keeps the congressional review process absolutely intact and full of integrity,” said Corker on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday. “On behalf of the American people we want to make sure that if a final deal is reached it lays before Congress, so we have the opportunity to go through every detail.”

Corker has worked for months to bring Democrats on board. The bill originally had called for a vote to approve or disapprove of the deal—now there is the option to not act, Menendez told TIME. Another priority—pushed by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, according to the New York Times—was ensuring a 60-vote rather than a 51-vote threshold for any resolution of disapproval or agreement, ensuring that Congress spoke in a bipartisan manner. Kaine claims credit for limiting the bill to only sanctions imposed by Congress, rather than the Administration or international bodies. Still, just last week Cardin said he had three major areas of concern: “the time for review, the limitation of presidential powers during the review, and to the statute issues that are not directly related to the nuclear agreement.”

So over the past few days and up through Monday night, Corker has worked to close the gaps with Democrats, reportedly softening requirements that Iran isn’t directly sponsoring terrorism against the United States and loosening restrictions on the original timetable for a 60 day congressional review period.

The negotiations have appeared to assuage Democratic concerns. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama’s veto threat would be revoked—a stunning turnaround—if some of the changes the White House has proposed, including the timetable and terrorism language, make it through committee.

“We have to see what comes through the committee process,” said Earnest. “What we have made clear to Democrats and Republicans is that the President would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is making its way through the committee today.”

Corker’s immediate challenge now is to navigate a series of controversial amendments from Democrats and Republicans alike. One from Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy would allow President Obama to waive sanctions during the 60 days if a “failure to do so would be a breach of the final comprehensive agreement,” according to Murphy spokesman Chris Harris. Another by Isakson would make a condition of sanctions relief “fair and appropriate compensation” to Americans who were terrorized in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. And Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce an amendment making approval of the deal dependent on Iran’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist, according to the New York Times.

Some of those amendments are nonstarters with the Administration, which has launched a full-scale lobbying effort on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Moniz briefed House members in a classified session Monday and are expected to hold another for senators on Tuesday, according to the Times. They are trying to convince lawmakers to agree to a framework agreement that couldn’t be subject to a wider divergence of opinion. Critics like Cotton, a foreign policy hawk and Iraq combat veteran, believe the deal could eventually lead to a nuclear confrontation. The Administration argues it could lead to a safer world, lengthening the time it would take for Iran to produce such a bomb over the next decade from three months to a year, giving America’s allies more time to forcefully respond.

Corker’s knack for jumping into the hairiest policy debates hasn’t always been a success, including in his early efforts to negotiate the auto company bailout and Dodd-Frank financial regulation reform. “He’s a guy who views things without the partisan lens and from a very practical approach,” says Josh Holmes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff. “I think in some ways early on it made him a target for Democrats to try to wedge the best deal out of.”

“I will say that Corker is amongst the most intelligent senators on the Hill,” adds Holmes. “He learns a great deal from each one of these interactions.”

Corker did seal a deal during the 2013 immigration reform debate, helping craft border security legislation that the Senate incorporated and passed before it died in the House. Menendez told TIME he “swallowed” Corker’s “odorous” amendment because he agreed with his colleague that it would “guarantee us a big vote and that the greater good was better served by accepting what he could bring along with him.”

Corker’s goal is essentially the same now: to convince a wide swath of Congress to get to “yes” despite their reservations. Menendez, who has “tag teamed” members on the bill on the Senate floor, says Corker is a dogged negotiator.

“He’s tenacious going to anyone on either side of the aisle making his case,” says Menendez. “And he won’t stop. If you say no to him, he’ll ask you why and then try to argue away the concern. If you say I’m thinking about he’ll probably come back to you another 10 times.”

With reporting by Maya Rhodan and Massimo Calabresi/Washington, D.C.

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