The U.S. shouldn’t rush to finish a nuclear deal with Iran simply to meet a deadline that would allow a shorter congressional review period, said Senator Bob Corker, chairman of a committee that will be pivotal in deciding an agreement’s fate in Congress.
Six world powers and Iran have been in talks since late June, attempting to complete a deal that would ease economic sanctions while allowing Iran to pursue limited nuclear activities with intrusive international monitoring.
Corker, a Tennessee Republican who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the talks have been “going on a negative trend for some time.”
Under a potential deal, “we’ve gone from dismantling their program to managing proliferation,” Corker said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” broadcast Sunday. “That’s the biggest concern.”
Corker said he had spoken to Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday to urge patience.
If President Barack Obama sends an Iran deal to Congress by July 9, lawmakers will have 30 days to review it, hold hearings and potentially vote to block it. If there’s no agreement sent to Congress by July 9, the review period gets extended to 60 days, a period that would include Congress’ typical August recess.
Blocking a deal would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, because Obama would be expected to veto any attempt to stop a deal his administration believes will cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.
In Vienna Sunday, Kerry said “difficult issues” remain to strike a deal, and that the U.S. is “willing to walk away” if Iran doesn’t compromise.
Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, criticized what he called the “smug, condescending tone” of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “They think they’re negotiating from a position of strength,” Cotton said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Cotton, a long-time critic of the U.S. approach to Iran, said the U.S. has already made too many concessions, including letting Iran keep its ballistic missile program and uranium, and agreeing to a deal while three Americans are held in Iranian prisons under charges the U.S. says are unjustified.
Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the best outcome for the U.S. would be an agreement that ensures full inspections, and that inspectors will need to know what Iran has done in the past.
“The best option is a strong agreement,” Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said on “This Week.” “The Congress will do an independent oversight.”