Democrats and Republicans sparred Sunday over congressional involvement in the Iran nuclear agreement, as President Obama attempted to assure critics that the U.S. won’t accept a bad deal.
The debate intensified as the United States and five other world powers are set to resume negotiations next week with Iran to stop the country from pursuing and achieving a nuclear weapon. The goal of Secretary of State John Kerry and the other negotiators is to agree on the framework of a deal before April toward a final agreement by June 30.
Obama told CBS' "Sunday Morning" that the U.S. would "walk away" from nuclear talks with Iran if there's no acceptable deal and that any agreement must allow Western powers to verify that Tehran isn't going to obtain an atomic weapon.
"If we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it," he said.
Obama also said the U.S. and others still would have "enough time to take action," if Iran “cheated.”
Iran says their program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use.
The GOP-led Congress wants to be able to vote on a final deal before it’s accepted, with Senate leaders trying to figure out whether they can pass legislation on the issue with enough votes to override a presidential veto.
“The Iranian parliament will get to say yes or no on this deal,” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think the United States Congress should have that exact same input into the process.”
Johnson said the Senate is scheduled in the coming days to begin working on legislation that addresses that issue.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democratic on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told "Fox News Sunday" that he will reserve action until the administration announces on March 24 whether the negotiations were successful.
The general outline of a proposed deal purportedly includes intrusive inspections, a freeze on sensitive nuclear activity for at least 10 years and a cap on centrifuges and enriched uranium.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists that Congress has a chance to review and vote on any deal. But he acknowledged Sunday that he doesn't have the support yet to override a threatened veto by Obama.
"I'm hoping we can get 67 senators to assert the historic role of the Senate and the Congress in looking at matters of this magnitude,” the Kentucky Republican told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Obviously, the president doesn't want us involved in this. But he's going to need us if he's going to lift any of the existing sanctions. And so I think he cannot work around Congress forever.”
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before a joint meeting of Congress, argued against the proposed deal, suggesting Iran could easily resume its pursuit of a nuclear weapon after such a relatively short wait and that other Arab nations will follow in Tehran’s footsteps.
Roughly 50 Capitol Hill Democrats boycotted the address, arguing it undermined the efforts of the administration, which was not advised about Netanyahu’s invitation by House Speaker John Boehner.
Among the most outspoken was California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
She told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Netanyahu’s speech was “arrogant” and said he shouldn’t “trash” a potential deal before it’s completed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.