Iran bill author faults White House for GOP pushback on talks

Iran bill author faults White House for GOP pushback on talks
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, suggested Tuesday that the reason Republicans wrote an open-letter to Iran is due to the White House's resistance to congressional involvement in ongoing nuclear talks.

Corker said that idea originated from a Senate Democrat he spoke to early Tuesday about the negotiations.

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"Some of this is pushback because of the administration taking the position that it's taken. Again, that is someone else's observation," Corker told reporters. "The fact that the administration has pushed back on Congress having any role, especially on the congressionally mandated sanctions and issuing a veto threat at a very common-sense approach." 

Corker introduced a bill with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) several weeks ago that would allow Congress 60 days to review any nuclear deal struck with Iran before its implementation, but the White House immediately issued a veto threat. 

"My sense is, we're going to continue to build momentum, but there's no question what you're saying, the administration has been weighing in heavily and trying to keep us from weighing in on important issues," he said. 

Corker's bill has become a lightning rod between Republicans and the White House and Democrats. 

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to bring the bill to a procedural vote on Tuesday, but the five Democrats and one Independent who co-sponsored the bill said they would withhold their support until after March 24, by when the administration must reach a framework agreement with Iran.  

And on Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) unveiled a letter signed by 46 other Republican senators to Iran warning its leaders that Congress would need to play a role in any deal reached with U.S. and international negotiators. 

Corker said he was surprised that the White House has pushed back so hard on the bill 

"What I don't understand [is] why the administration has pushed back so strongly against — especially the way the bill is drafted. I mean, if you look at it, it's a very reasonable approach to this kind of thing," he said.

Corker said he "didn't really pay any attention" to the letter, but knew it was not something that was going to be constructive for him to sign, as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  

"I just didn't even realize until this weekend that it had the kind of momentum that it had," he said. 

Corker urged for Congress to wait for just two weeks before March 24. 

"There are two weeks left, let's all focus on ensuring that we get to a place where Congress can make a responsible, sober assessment of what has happened, and play its rightful role in this," he said.