Dems: Deal or no deal?

About a quarter of the Senate is urging President Obama to consult with Congress over how the United State will respond to Iran if a deal over its nuclear program is or isn't reached.

Twenty-three Senate Democrats made the request in a letter to Obama on Friday, in the third letter Congress wrote to the White House this week on the subject.

It’s a replica of a letter nearly 400 House members sent to Obama earlier in the week.

“Because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation,” the letter said.  

The senators wrote they are “hopeful” a final diplomatic agreement would dismantle Iran’s program, but warned Iran could renege.

Iran might be using prolonged negotiations with the P5+1 coalition, for instance, to buy time to produce a nuclear weapon, they argued. 

While Iran should not be denied a peaceful program, the senators said they are “gravely concerned” by Iran’s industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and its Arak heavy-water reactor. 

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To ensure Iran weakens its nuclear power, Tehran must implement agreements it reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the senators said. International monitors would then be able to inspect and verify that Iran complies. 

The letter included signatures from Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.) and Banking Chairman Tim Johnson (S.D.), who did not sign a similar letter that 83 senators sent to Obama earlier in the week. Some Senate Democrats signed both. 

The lawmakers called on Obama in their letters to work with Congress on either legislation that would provide sanctions relief if a deal is struck, or tougher sanctions in case talks fail.

A group of nearly 400 House members also sent a similar letter to Obama this week.

All three of the letters called on Obama to work with Congress on either legislation that would provide sanctions relief if a deal is struck, or tougher sanctions in case talks fail.

They also called on the administration to keep every option on the table, including military action.

The new letter specifically highlights other threats Iran poses to the U.S. and its allies, which they want to tackle with the Obama administration.

“We remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran,” they wrote.

The pressure from Congress comes the same week as the second round of nuclear talks wrapped up with Iran in Vienna, Austria.

Diplomats focused on Iran’s heavy-water reactor and levels of uranium enrichment in the negotiations.

The next round is slated for the beginning of April in Vienna. 

The letter was signed by Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Al Franken (Minn.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Tom Udall (N.M.), John E. Walsh (Mont.), Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Jon Tester (Mont.), Angus King (Maine), Mark Warner (Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Joe Manchin III (W.V.), and Bill Nelson (Fla.).