With a deal to stem Iran’s nuclear program announced, it’s now Congress’ turn to weigh in on an agreement that many lawmakers in both parties have already denounced.
“I want to read the agreement in detail and fully understand it, but I begin from a place of deep skepticism that the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Obama has five days to submit documents on the deal to Congress.
The Senate must now weigh why a nuclear agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Under a law passed in May, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will have 60 days to review the pact forged with the Tehran government, the United States, and five other world powers. At least eight committees in the two chambers will debate and hold public hearings on the pact. During the review period, President Barack Obama cannot lift U.S. sanctions against Iran, a provision of the nuclear deal.
Lawmakers then can decide whether to take up resolutions to approve or disapprove the deal, or they can choose not to act at all. A disapproval vote wouldn’t kill the deal, but it would keep Obama – at least temporarily – from lifting sanctions.
“The comprehensive nuclear agreement announced today appears to further the flawed elements of April’s interim agreement because the Obama administration approached these talks from a flawed perspective: reaching the best deal acceptable to Iran, rather than actually advancing our national goal of ending Iran’s nuclear program,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“The Senate must now weigh why a nuclear agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” he said.
If Congress disapproves the pact, the ban on lifting sanctions would continue for 12 days, giving Obama enough time to issue a veto, which he vowed Tuesday. That period would then extend another 10 days, allowing Congress enough time to weigh overriding Obama’s action.
Critics of the deal acknowledge that getting the two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a veto would be difficult because it would require at least 13 Senate Democrats and 44 House Democrats to buck the White House.
This is precisely what we enacted legislative bipartisan sanctions to stop, and this is the biggest reason why I respectfully, based on what I know today, ask you to vote against this proposed agreement.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman
Obama called House and Senate leadership Monday night and told them that the White House expected the deal to be announced Tuesday. He’s expected to play a hands-on role in selling the deal to Congress.
He’ll have lots of work to do.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the deal “will hand Iran billions in sanctions relief while giving it time and space to reach a breakout threshold to produce a nuclear bomb – all without cheating.’’
“Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terror – by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region,” Boehner said. “Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.”
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat turned independent, warned the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday that the deal reflected “precisely the outcome that for years we in Congress fought to prevent.”
“This is precisely what we enacted legislative bipartisan sanctions to stop, and this is the biggest reason why I respectfully, based on what I know today, ask you to vote against this proposed agreement,” Lieberman said. “Iran will be granted permanent and total relief from nuclear sanctions in exchange for temporary and partial limitations on its nuclear projects.”
Even Democrats supportive of the negotiations with Tehran were speaking cautiously about the agreement. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised Obama for his “bold, clear-eyed leadership” in pursuing the pact but added that “Congress will closely review the details of the agreement.”
“We have no illusions about the Iranian regime – or the destabilizing influence Iran continues to have in the region,” Pelosi said.
Some congressional foes of the Iran deal have talked about taking other actions to try to stop the deal. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., in an interview with Politico earlier this month, raised the possibility of opponents blocking nominations or adding Iran language to spending bills.
Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.