The White House is calling claims the administration is trying to bypass Congress on a nuclear deal with Iran “preposterous.”
“The notion that we are trying to avoid congressional consultation and input on this is preposterous,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Monday.
“This is an issue where we talk to Congress intensively,” he added. “We will continue to consult with Congress heavily."
A senior administration official told The New York Times in a story published Monday that the White House wouldn’t seek congressional legislation on any comprehensive agreement “for years.”
Instead, the administration would use its executive authority to roll back many economic sanctions unilaterally, without lawmaker approval.
There is just over a month left for negotiations between Tehran and five major world powers, including the United States, ahead of a self-imposed deadline. Diplomats are seeking a deal that would end Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for easing economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
The permanent removal of such sanctions would require a congressional vote — something Schultz acknowledged on Monday.
"If we do get a comprehensive arrangement, it is absolutely true that the sanctions regime we have in place cannot be undone without congressional action,” he said.
But the White House spokesman said it was “way too early to speculate on which sanctions will require legislative versus executive action to suspend or lift.”
He also accused the Times report of conflating “when and how congressional action will be needed to suspend and/or lift the sanctions, and whether we believe they should take an up or down vote on the deal.”
Still, the White House did not say that it would seek explicit congressional approval before lifting sanctions as part of a hypothetical deal.
Lawmakers reacted angrily to the Times story on Monday, suggesting that the White House could face opposition to any such maneuver.
"This will not stand,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a tweet that linked to the story.