House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday he has “serious doubts” on whether the Obama administration and five other world powers can reach an agreement with Iran to curtail that country’s nuclear program and that Congress will move to impose new sanctions on Tehran if no deal is reached.
“Let's wait and see if there's an agreement,” the Ohio Republican told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I have got serious doubts. I had serious doubts over the last year whether there could be an agreement, and I still have serious doubts.”
Boehner suggested the major obstacle is that Iranian leaders cannot be trusted.
“We have got a regime that's never quite kept their word about anything,” he said. “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.”
Secretary of State John Kerry is now in Lausanne, Switzerland, joined by leaders from Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom to try to agree by Tuesday on the framework of a deal that would lead to a final agreement by June 30.
Boehner said Congress would move “very quickly” to impose sanctions if the deal falls apart and argued that the United States should never have agreed to loosen existing sanctions because they are what brought Iran to the negotiating table.
“We should have kept the sanctions in place, so that we could have gotten to a real agreement,” he said. “The sanctions are going to come, and they're going to come quick.”
Congress has agreed to wait on trying to impose new sanctions, which the administration has argued will only hurt the delicate negotiations. Meanwhile, there still appears to be strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for giving Congress a vote on a final nuclear deal.
Boehner also told CNN that he has no regrets about having Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress earlier this month about the dangers of accepting a bad deal, in an attempt to close years of negotiations.
“I had one goal,” Boehner said. “And that goal was to make sure that the American people heard and the Congress heard about the serious threat that Iran poses not only to the Middle East, but for the rest of the world. …. The speech that he gave was the clearest speech I have heard in 25 years about the real threats that face our country.”
He also dismissed speculation that his upcoming trip to Israel was a victory lap, considering Netanyahu won reelection just days after his March 3 address before the joint meeting of Congress.
“My visit there was planned months ago,” Boehner said. “So it's not quite what I would describe as a victory lap.”
Boehner said he’s traveling to the Middle East because “it’s critically important” for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders and other governments about exactly what is happening in that region.
He also downplayed his deal last week with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on a health care bill that improves the way Medicare pays doctors and extends a children's health plan and authorization for community health centers.
He said the deal was a little unusual because one like that hasn’t happened in a while but that “95 percent of what happens here in Congress every day happens on a bipartisan basis.”
He also argued that he is a conservative Republican who has broad support within his caucus, while acknowledging that his goal every day is “to try to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get something passed.”