The nuclear deal with Iran announced Tuesday sparked hostility and skepticism from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who argue that the deal will make it easier for Iran to build a nuclear weapon, not harder.
Under the agreement, which took several months and extended deadlines to negotiate, Iran will curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions. While the stated goal of the deal is to avoid a nuclear-armed Iraq and more USintervention in the Middle East, critics are worried it will do just the opposite.
New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations urged Congress in a public statement to review the deal carefully.
“I’m concerned that the deal ultimately legitimizes Iran as a threshold-nuclear state,” he said. “I’m concerned the redlines we drew have turned into green-lights; that Iran will be required only to limit rather than eliminate its nuclear program, while the international community will be required to lift the sanctions, and that it doesn’t provide for anytime-any-place inspections of suspected sites. The bottom line is: The deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program – it preserves it.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky and House Speaker John Boehner (R) released statements expressing similar doubts. Boehner went as far as to say, “If in fact it’s as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we’ll do everything we can to stop it.”
Legislators have not actually seen the text of the agreement yet; at this point, their opinions are based on limited information. California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) said in a statement she believes the deal has significant potential.
"If this agreement is what the administration says it is, it is a major, historic diplomatic breakthrough," she said.
Once Congress receives a copy of the agreement, it will have 60 days to review and vote on it, or take no action. If Congress votes it down, President Obama said Tuesday he would veto the rejection, which Congress could only overrule with a two-thirds majority.
Congress could also undermine the deal by passing new sanctions on Iran or by revoking Obama’s authority to waive earlier sanctions.
To preserve the deal, Obama could use executive power to offer sanctions relief without Congress’s approval.
Congress is unlikely to take any action before the August recess, but the foreign relations committees are expected to schedule hearings soon.