Published December 20, 2015
The White House sent a new warning to the Senate late Saturday saying to stay out of negotiations with Iran over the country’s nuclear program, asserting that potential legislation would have a “profoundly negative impact” on current negotiations.
President Obama’s chief of staff Dennis McDonough told Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker in a letter that legislation sponsored by Corker would go beyond ensuring a role for Congress in a deal with Iran.
"Instead, the legislation would potentially prevent any deal from succeeding by suggesting that Congress must vote to 'approve' any deal," McDonough said. He criticized a provision that would eliminate Obama's authority to lift some sanctions on Iran as part of any agreement.
Talks are set to resume Sunday in Switzerland with the U.S. and other world leaders facing a looming March deadline to reach a framework deal.
"The administration's request to Congress is simple: Let us complete the negotiations before the Congress acts on legislation," McDonough said, adding that he does expect a robust congressional debate if a final deal is struck by the end of June.
McDonough echoed Obama’s threats to veto the legislation should Congress pass it.
Corker and other senators in both parties believe Congress should be able to vote on any agreement to block Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
"On this issue where Congress has played such a vital role, I believe it is very important that Congress appropriately weigh in before any final agreement is implemented," Corker said in a statement late Saturday.
McDonough’s letter follows one this week that was signed by 47 Republican senators and addressed to Iran’s leaders warning that any agreement with the U.S. could expire once Obama leaves office.
The White House slammed the letter saying it was politically motivated and an attempt to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance U.S. national security interests.
The GOP letter follows a controversial March 3 speech to a joint meeting of Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he warned that the emerging nuclear agreement would all but guarantee that Iran gets nuclear weapons. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited the prime minister to speak without input from the White House and State Department, in what the White House said was a departure from protocol.
The Associated Press contributed to this report