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Kerry: Congress doesn’t need initial vote on Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the administration has the authority to suspend sanctions on Iran without Congress, but that “in the end” Congress would weigh in.

“On sanctions, what we’ve merely said to people is that — and we’ve said this in public testimony as well as in private conversations — that in the first instance, we would look to suspend sanctions, which the president can do, simply because that’s the necessary way to proceed with respect to the negotiations themselves,” Kerry said at a press conference in Berlin.

{mosads}”But that does not in any way write Congress out of the process or suggest that, in the end, Congress isn’t going to have a vote or do something with respect to this,” Kerry added.

New York Times story on Sunday raised concerns among lawmakers that the Obama administration will bypass them on a nuclear deal with Iran.

The administration has said it would suspend sanctions in exchange for steps by Iran to rein in its nuclear program. If Iran held up the agreement, Congress would be asked to permanently removal sanctions.

A senior U.S. official told the Times that “We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years.”

The deadline for reaching a deal in the talks with Iran is Nov. 24.

Kerry did not dispute the account in the Times, but emphasized that Congress would play an important role.

“I have too much respect for the process of the Congress, the rights of the Congress, and the importance of the relationship between the Executive and the Congress, the Legislative Branch, to ever suggest that there would be any credibility to this notion there’s some thought of going around it,” Kerry said.

“On the contrary, we are completely engaged in a regular series of briefings,” he added. “I’ve been talking even during the break to senators about our thoughts with respect to the Iran negotiations, and I personally believe, as does the president, that Congress has an extremely important role to play in this, and Congress will play a role in this.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued a warning shot on Wednesday.

“Congress will not simply look the other way if the administration agrees to a deal that does not make sufficient progress in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program,” he said in a statement. “Although the precise mechanics of Congressional approval or disapproval will depend on what exactly the president decides to do, the nature of the agreement, and a variety of other factors, I can promise that Congress will conduct extensive oversight regarding the details of any deal or extension of the current Joint Plan of Action.”  

In July, the State Department’s chief Iran negotiator, Wendy Sherman, testified that the administration would consult with Congress but did not necessarily need its approval to suspend sanctions.  

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