Obama Calls Senator Corker to Discuss Iran Nuclear Talks

US Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asks a question of US Secretary of State John Kerry as he testifies before the Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 8, 2014.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama discussed the emerging Iranian nuclear deal with Senator Bob Corker in a phone call Wednesday as the White House seeks to stave off the Tennessee Republican’s bill that would give Congress an up-or-down vote on an agreement.

The president spoke with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman the week before the panel is set to consider the bill, which is co-sponsored by eight Democrats and an independent. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, and supporters say they have almost enough votes to override a veto.

Obama told the senator “he certainly has a lot of respect for the way that Chairman Corker has approached the situation,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “They have obvious differences, but the president made the case to him once again that the president believes that this principled approach to diplomacy is the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Earnest emphasized that Obama didn’t use the conversation to “negotiate the terms of any sort of legislation.”

Some have suggested that with Democrats demonstrating a willingness to cross party lines on the issue, the White House should shift strategy and look to shape the legislation.

Obama said in an interview with the New York Times published Sunday that he hopes the White House could work with lawmakers to “find something that allows Congress to express itself” without undermining his ability to negotiate.

Renounce Terrorism

Earnest said Tuesday that the Corker bill, S. 615, is unrealistic because it would essentially demand that Iran renounce terrorism as part of the deal. Many Senate Republicans “view the Corker bill as a vehicle for undermining negotiations” with Iran, the press secretary said.

Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman has offered to brief congressional leaders and lawmakers who sit on committees concerned with national security on the framework agreement Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. Harf said Sherman, who played a key role in the negotiations with Iran, will be joined by representatives from the Treasury and Energy Departments and the intelligence community.

Harf said she expects Secretary of State John Kerry to go to the Capitol to talk with members next week. Earnest said there would be additional “in-person consultations” with members of Congress when they return from recess next week.

Kissinger, Shultz

Separately, Earnest on Wednesday dismissed concerns raised by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, who said in a Wall Street Journal opinion article that the proposed inspection regime would have difficulty detecting violations by Iran.

Earnest said the deal envisioned inspections “all throughout the nuclear supply chain” that would provide “continuous surveillance.”

Those inspections would “make it very difficult for Iran to re-establish a nuclear facility,” Earnest said.

The White House spokesman defended the administration’s ability to “snap back” sanctions following any violation. Earnest said the mechanism for doing so would be written into a deal, and that a U.S. president would be able to re-impose the penalties “with a stroke of a pen.”

“The international community is united,” Earnest said.

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