By Alexander Bolton - 11/25/13 11:10 AM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday the Senate might pursue stronger sanctions against Iran, after lawmakers criticized a nuclear accord that would ease sanctions.
Reid called the pact negotiated between six world powers and Iran an “important first step,” but expressed uncertainty whether it would be good enough.
Reid said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) would study, and could hold hearings on, the pact.
“If we need to do stronger sanctions, I’m sure we will do that,” he said. “We’ll move forward appropriately.”
Reid acknowledged President Obama could veto stronger sanctions passed by Congress if he believed they ran counter to his foreign policy agenda.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, criticized the deal at a press conference in New York Sunday.
“It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table. And any reduction relieves the pressure of sanction and gives them the hope that they will be able to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Schumer said the “disproportionality” of the agreement would increase the likelihood of Congress passing additional sanctions in December.
The Senate is in a two-week recess for Thanksgiving and will return to work on Dec. 9.
Reid noted Monday that several Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), have praised the deal.
Feinstein on Sunday hailed it as a “significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, said “this deal could bring us closer to a world less threatened by weapons of mass destruction.”
One of the biggest critics of the deal is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called it a "historic mistake."
Reid said he has discussed Netanyahu’s concerns with him.
“If I were the leader of that country, I’d be concerned, too,” he said of the Israeli leader. “I’ve spoken to him about this.
“It’s an important first step; if it’s a first step good enough, we’ll take a look at that,” he said.
Reid, however, noted the negotiations made important progress because it was the first time in 37 years world powers such as the U.S., Britain, China and Russia negotiated with Iran.