President Barack Obama pushed lawmakers in Congress Sunday to support the Iran deal reached with six world powers that he claims would temporarily ease sanctions in exchange for curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. However, bipartisan skepticism in both the House and Senate could spell a congressional push for tougher sanctions, leading to a veto face off with President Obama and members of his own party.
The Obama administration stated that it does not believe it needs approval from lawmakers in Congress to move forward with the deal announced in Geneva over the weekend. But much of the criticism has come from lawmakers within Obama’s own party, including Senators Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Bob Menedez D-NJ.
Schumer noted the “disproportionality of this agreement” makes it likely that Democrats and Republicans will join together in a bipartisan agreement to pass additional, stricter sanctions when the Democratic-controlled Senate returns in December for the New Year session. “I intend to discuss that possibility with my colleagues,” Schumer said.
The Iran deal reached over the weekend would ease the burden estimated at $7 billion for the Tehran regime.
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“Until Iran has verifiably terminated its illicit nuclear program, we should vigorously enforce existing sanctions,” said Menendez, who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I do not believe we should further reduce our sanctions, nor abstain from preparations to impose new sanctions on Iran should the talks fail.”
Menedez also added that he expects “that the forthcoming sanctions legislation to be considered by the Senate will provide for a six month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran, but will at the same time be immediately available should the talks falter or Iran fail to implement or breach the interim agreement.”
The Republican-controlled House has already voted for new sanctions on Tehran back in July, but the measure had not been taken up in the Senate.
Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel — video seen above — called the framework of the Iran deal ” disappointing,” on CNN”s “State of the Union” Sunday. “It’s disappointing to me that Iran is still going to be allowed to enrich while they’re talking,” Engel told Crowley. “I would have thought that should be a prerequisite to any kind of talks. We’re not asking them to dismantle any of their centrifuges. So that’s disappointing.”
Engel echoed concerns voiced by Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, R-MI. “We have just rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior,” Rogers told Crowley. “So think about what this agreement does,” Rogers posed.
“It says you can continue to enrich – that’s what the Iranians believe – and they have made no changes, no changes in the development of their nuclear weapon program. I can tell that you with a high degree of certainty.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce R-CA, 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.”
Sen. Marco Rubio R-FL, used strong words to characterize how he saw the Iran deal. He said the Iran 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.”
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Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that Tehran was celebrating because the Iran deal reached with the U.S. and the five other world powers allows it to continue to enrich uranium, while getting relief from crippling sanctions that everyone agrees were beginning to threaten the Iranian regime’s credibility.
“They’re spiking the ball in the end zone,” he said.
Senator Corker made clear that his greatest concern was that the Obama administration wouldn’t follow through on the terms of the Iran deal, including daily inspections on nuclear facilities and ensuring that the country obeys new limitations for nuclear enrichment, which are below levels for building a nuclear weapon.
He also repeatedly said he didn’t want the interim deal to “become the norm” and suggested Congress is ready to reinstate sanctions and impose more.