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WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) offered an amendment Tuesday to give the American people a proper constitutional check on the president’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

The amendment would strengthen the role Congress plays in approving any agreement with Iran. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act allows the Senate to disapprove of a deal. But since the disapproval could be vetoed by President Obama, as few as 34 senators could sustain that veto by preventing an override.

The amendment that Senator Johnson offered Tuesday would have deemed the president’s deal with Iran a treaty, requiring the affirmative approval of two-thirds of the Senate — 67 votes.

Unfortunately, his amendment was defeated by a vote of  39-57.  He earlier had filed a second amendment, deeming the deal a congressional-executive agreement that requiring approval of a majority in both houses of Congress. That awaits a vote.

Senator Johnson spoke to the Senate, noting that the details of the Iran deal are not public but that the administration and Iran’s rulers differ significantly in their interpretation of them. “The purpose of my amendments is to bring clarity,” he said, allowing the American people and their elected senators to have a say on whether the deal is good for national security.

He went on:

I would say this agreement with Iran certainly involves  risks that affect our entire nation. . . . I believe this is of such importance, that this deal is so important to the security of this nation and to world peace, that it rises to the level of a treaty.” 

After the vote, he noted the weakness of the underlying bill, its reversal of the usual standard for congressional approval:

This bill turns the Senate’s advice-and-consent role on its head. Its process of disapproval can be vetoed by the president, and he will portray that disapproval as if it equaled approval. It does not.

I wanted to offer an amendment, to make a point, that would require the Iran deal win the approval of at least 41 senator. The Senate’s parliamentarian disapproved that idea, saying it was unconstitutional. The parliamentarian is correct. But a similarly low threshold is what this bill imposes. The Senate should treat President Obama’s deal as it would an agreement in any similarly grave matter – as a treaty.”

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