While Lausanne Negotiations Heat Up, White House Faces Second Front in Congress

The White House is lobbying for legislation to give Congress oversight but not approval power on Iran nuclear deal.

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The White House is intensifying its campaign to gain Congressional support on the deal it’s about to conclude with Iran over its nuclear program.

While putting pressure on Democrats to tow the line, lest the Republican win another one over the Democratic president, the Obama administration has been trying to get Republicans to support the deal, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday night.

As part of the effort to gain Congressional approval, aware that the Republican leadership in both houses is clearly opposed to just about any realistic deal, White House officials are now talking about allowing legislation that would give Congress at least some control over a nuclear deal, should one emerge in Lausanne, Switzerland by the Tuesday night’s deadline.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) told the WSJ: “There’s a recognition that Congress is going to take some sort of vote after negotiations are complete.”

But Senator Bob Menendez (D., NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at a synagogue in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, that he had “real concerns” about the talks, and cannot accept a deal that permits Iran to remain a “threshold nuclear” state, Bloomberg reported.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will discuss on April 14 legislation to allow Congress to review and approve a final Iran agreement.

“This bill is a good bill and I’d hoped the administration would have supported it, ” Menendez said Sunday at. “We are going to have to see what the agreement is and what are the mechanisms for verification. There needs to be a very robust inspection.”

The White House is likely to veto legislation that gives Congress final approval over a deal with Iran, and certainly would oppose any discussion of the deal by lawmakers before the June 30 final deadline, which is when the president hopes to have achieved a comprehensive and satisfactory deal.

“We’re open to talking to Congress about what they might do, how they might be heard on the Iran deal and how they might play an oversight role, ” a senior Obama administration official told the WSJ. “Some people in Congress will certainly want to take some vote.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday the New York Times reported Iranian officials announced they no longer agree to ship a large portion of their uranium to Russia, which was a major achievement of the negotiations until then.

“The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad, ” Iranian official at the talks Abbas Araqchi told AFP. “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”

The Times reported that Western officials, rather than seeing this as a deal breaker, are looking at alternative ways to deal with the Iran’s nuclear fuel, including diluting it.

Reverse those centrifuges, add water…

House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday he had “serious doubts” on reaching a deal with Iran by the deadline, and wants Congress to impose new sanctions, CNN reported.

“I had serious doubts over the last year whether there could be an agreement, and I still have serious doubts, ” the House Speaker said, adding, “We have got a regime that’s never quite kept their word about anything. I just don’t understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of people who, in my opinion, have no intention of keeping their word.”

The White House prefers a bill proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), requiring the administration to certify that Iran was complying with the deal when one is concluded, with a penalty of new sanctions, but Congress does not have the right to approve or reject the deal.

Talk about wishful thinking.

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