House warns White House on Iran deal

House lawmakers on Thursday issued a stern warning about the White House’s plans for a nuclear deal in Iran, as negotiators sprint toward a final deal half a globe away. 

The U.S. and five other nations appear to be days away from the final terms of an agreement meant to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for rolling back sanctions.


But any deal would first have to go through Congress, and it’s clear that members of both parties aren’t going to let that happen quietly.

“That’s a bad deal for us: permanent concessions in exchange for temporary benefits — and that’s only if Iran doesn’t cheat like North Korea did,” Rep. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade Bottom Line MORE (R-Calif.), the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a hearing on the negotiations on Thursday. “So Iran is left a few steps away from the bomb and more able to dominate the region — this is my take on this.”

Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Senate throws hundreds of Trump nominees into limbo MORE (R-Calif.) said that the early outline of the deal was “the equivalent of the entire World War II Luftwaffe sitting on the ground with the promise that although the fuel tanks are right next to the planes, they won’t fully load the planes and the bombs for 10 years.”

“That’s kind of where we are,” he said. “We’re letting them have all the weapons of war.”

Some Democrats also expressed their skepticism of the plan, with Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) saying he had “legitimate concerns” that the deal could needlessly bulk up the Iranian economy without giving international inspectors unfettered access to ensure Tehran is living up to its side of the bargain.

Unless negotiations wrapped up by the end of the day on Thursday — which seems unlikely — lawmakers will have 60 days to review any Iran deal and vote on whether congressionally imposed sanctions should be lifted.

If they vote to approve the deal, “then we have to the greatest extent possible locked ourselves into a deal in which in 12 years we have a nuclear Iran,” said Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanDems seek to rein in calls for impeachment House Dem: Mueller report offers 'ample evidence' for impeachment Dems offer bill directing IRS to create free online tax filing service MORE (D-Calif.). “So we shouldn’t do that.”

Yet it remains unclear exactly how much power Congress will be able to wield.

Even if lawmakers vote to block the deal, President Obama could veto the resolution. It seems unlikely that there are the two-thirds majorities needed in both chambers to override him.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to deliver an update on the talks from Vienna later on Thursday, which should offer a clearer indication of how discussions are proceeding.

Outward appearances are that talks are moving forward. 

While negotiators have been caught up on Iran’s demand for relief from a U.N. arms embargo, the main text of the agreement is "around 96 percent complete," Iran's deputy foreign minister said, according to Reuters

On Wednesday afternoon, Obama held a secure videoconference with negotiators in Vienna, which could be interpreted as a sign that talks are hitting their stride.