House, Senate to Meet to Shape Iran Sanctions; Conference the First Capitol Hill Cooperation in Months
Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The House voted Thursday to go to conference with the Senate on a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran - marking the first time in months that Congress has embraced a conference committee, the normal procedure that has been anything but normal recently.
The House voted 403-11 to set a nonbinding deadline of May 28 for negotiators to return with a final sanctions bill, though they hope for even speedier action on a measure that would penalize companies that deal with Iran's oil sector and would also expand penalties to include U.S. companies whose foreign subsidiaries do business with Iran.
We cannot wait any longer, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who stressed the urgency of combating a nation whose suspected nuclear arms program may be three years away from producing a stockpile of weapons and the means to deliver it.
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen was one of more than a dozen House negotiators named to the conference committee - the Senate named seven conferees last month - but that's no guarantee they will meet. And if they do, lawmakers might be forgiven if they are a bit rusty about the ins-and-outs of conference committees. It will be the first such conference since December and only the second in six months.
Conferences are when House and Senate negotiators meet to hammer out differences and write the final version of a bill, which must them pass the House and Senate in the same form.
In lieu of conferences, the House and Senate have been sending bills and amendments back and forth, with Democratic leaders negotiating final deals behind closed doors.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, told reporters Thursday morning he wants to see a return to conference committees, and said that will happen on a number of bills coming up. He also said he had wanted to see the health care bill get passed by conference, rather than through the reconciliation process.
I am one who wants to return to the confernece system, he said, blaming Republicans for blocking conferences.
But Republicans said they support conferences, arguing that's the way final bills should be hammered out. …