Congress skeptical about Iran pact

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama pressed Congress Sunday to support an agreement between Iran and world powers that would temporarily ease sanctions while curbing portions of Tehran’s nuclear program. Many members, including some senior members of his own party, reacted with skepticism.

The White House insisted that it does not need approval from Congress to go ahead with the deal announced in Geneva, Switzerland. Still, Obama called unidentified lawmakers Sunday, building on calls he started Saturday. He not only sought support. He worked to ward off any movement in Congress toward an increase in sanctions against Iran at the very moment he was arguing for a temporary easing in exchange for concessions from Iran.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that the accord does not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program for the economic relief Tehran is receiving.

“Until Iran has verifiably terminated its illicit nuclear program, we should vigorously enforce existing sanctions,” he said. “I do not believe we should further reduce our sanctions, nor abstain from preparations to impose new sanctions on Iran should the talks fail.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., warned that the “disproportionality of this agreement” makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together and pass additional sanctions when the Democratic-controlled Senate returns in December. “I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the deal “shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands.”

Some Democrats, and even Republicans, did support the pact.

“By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“This is a very important first step toward the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “Under this interim agreement, Iran must halt or scale back parts of its nuclear program while we pursue a comprehensive deal. If Iran cheats, it will face even stiffer sanctions.”

In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., asked Secretary of State John Kerry to appear before the committee.

“I have serious concerns that this agreement does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and our allies,” Royce said in a statement. “Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, requested that the White House provide a briefing for his members.

“The interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations,” Boehner said.

The House already voted for new sanctions against Tehran in July, a measure that has not been taken up in the Senate.

Alireza Nader, a senior international policy analyst specializing in U.S.-Iran relations at RAND Corp., said Sunday that he is not surprised by the level of opposition but that it’s still important for Obama to get lawmakers on board. “Congress can do things to hurt negotiations over the next several months,” he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Sunday that administration officials were not able to reach lawmakers as promptly as they had hoped because of the late hour of the agreement Saturday.

“Last night and certainly over the course of today there’ve been a number of conversations between senior White House officials and members of Congress," he said aboard Air Force One as Obama flew to the West Coast for a three-day trip.

Earnest declined to say whether Obama would veto a bill that increased sanctions against Iran.

“We want to work closely with Congress and despite the impertinent tweets of some members of the Senate Republican conference … most senators recognize that there is a constructive and important role for Congress to play as we move forward, and we will certainly be consulting closely with them,” he said.

He was referring to a tweet by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, suggesting that the agreement was meant to be a distraction from the problems rolling out the new health care law.

The agreement came after Obama and Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, began exchanging letters this summer, followed by a historic telephone call between the two leaders. At the same time, the U.S. and Iran had been engaging in secret talks since March, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Meeting in Oman, the talks included Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, the AP said.

Email: akumar@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @anitakumar01

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE - In this March 8, 2010 file photo, US Ambassador to Kuwait Deborah Jones is seen in Kuwait City. On Saturday, July 26, 2014,The United States shut down its embassy in Libya and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said.  On Sunday, July 20, 2014, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones tweeted about “heavy shelling and other exchanges” of fire in the vicinity of the embassy.

    US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said "free-wheeling militia violence" prompted the move.

  •  
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the economy at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 24, 2014, on the final day of his three-day West Coast trip. Striking a populist stand ahead of the midterm elections, Obama is demanding "economic patriotism" from American corporations that seek overseas mergers to avoid U.S. taxes. Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing to severely limit such deals, a move resisted by Republicans who argue the entire corporate tax code needs an overhaul.

    Obama: Offshore 'tax inversions' are unpatriotic

    President Barack Obama says a loophole that lets companies dodge U.S. taxes by moving their headquarters overseas is unpatriotic.

  •  
FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2014, AT 12:01 A.M. EDT - This combination of campaign provided photos and staff photos shows Congressional candidates in the 2014 Michigan primary election. Top row, from left, are Tom Whitmire, Fred Upton, Douglas Radcliffe North, and Tim Walberg. Bottom row, from left, are Mike Bishop, Tom McMillin, Ken Darga and Susan Grettenberger.

    Michigan primary is start of US House shakeup

    Michigan primary voters will begin determining what could be one of the bigger shake-ups in the state's congressional delegation in years, a revamp that could become even larger if business-supported Republican challengers can topple tea party-backed congressmen.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category