Senate Iran debate postponed after Democrats object

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to the media, after a weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday postponed plans to debate and vote next week on a bill requiring President Barack Obama to submit any nuclear agreement with Iran to Congress for approval. Many Democrats, including the bill's co-sponsors, had not wanted a vote before an end-March deadline set by international negotiators for reaching a framework agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program. They accused McConnell of using the legislation to score political points and of bypassing normal Senate committee review. The bill would require the president to submit a final nuclear agreement to Congress and restrict his authority to waive sanctions for 60 days so lawmakers have time to weigh in. Obama has threatened to veto the bill, saying it impinged on presidential authority and could undermine the talks. McConnell announced plans for a vote next week just after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday warning the United States it was negotiating a bad deal with Iran. Republicans infuriated many congressional Democrats by inviting the conservative Israeli leader to speak just two weeks before elections in Israel, without consulting them or the White House. Senator Robert Menendez, who introduced the measure last week with Republican Senator Bob Corker, was among several Democrats who said they would not vote until the end of the month. Democrats, even those most skeptical about the Iran talks, do not want to move any legislation that might compromise negotiations before the deadline. A veto would mean the bill would need the support of two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives to become law. Corker said his goal was a veto-proof majority to send the "strongest signal" to negotiators. Many members of Congress from both parties worry Obama is so eager for a nuclear deal that his negotiators will make too many concessions. "I greatly appreciate the Majority Leader's commitment to getting the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act across the finish line by allowing the vote to occur at a time when we will more likely generate a veto-proof majority," Corker said in a statement. Don Stewart, McConnell's deputy chief of staff, said the Majority Leader changed his plans because Democrats were objecting to their own bill. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Andre Grenon)