WASHINGTON — The senior Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrat listened as a firebrand Republican declared a bipartisan bill on Iran’s nuclear program had “very little teeth.” As the packed hearing room became quiet and tense, the Democrat did what his colleagues say he had done for over a week: He struck a conciliatory tone.
“I don’t think we’ll convince any administration, Democrat or Republican, that Congress should have any role in anything they do — we understand that,” the Democratic senator quipped.
Many of the other 18 senators laughed, as did staffers and audience members. The Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, did not. But he also did not challenge the senior senator who is being credited by Republicans and Democrats alike with playing a major role in transforming a once-controversial bill into one the committee unanimously approved.
It was that veteran Democratic member, along with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who chatted daily about sticking points in the negotiations last week with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., during his swing through Africa. And it was that Democrat who received the first across-the-aisle handshake from Corker after the chairman, with a relieved smile, gaveled closed the meeting following the 19-0 vote.
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