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Congress Cautious Over Preliminary Nuclear Deal

Shortly after President Barack Obama announced an agreement on a preliminary framework over Iran’s nuclear program, senior members of Congress responded with caution.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he is “cautiously optimistic about this framework” but added that “we have much to learn about what was negotiated and what will take place between now and the end of June.”

House Speaker John Boehner, a vocal critic of the negotiations with Iran and who traveled to Israel this week, called the parameters of a deal “alarming” and insists that Congress must be able to “fully review the details.”

"My longtime concerns about the parameters of this potential agreement remain, but my immediate concerns is the administration signaling it will provide near-term sanctions relief," Beohner said. "In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will continue to press this administration on the details of these parameters and the tough questions that remain unanswered."

Senator Bob Menendez, D-NJ, who just announced he would temporarily step down from his perch at the top of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after being indicted on multiple accounts, said the announcement "deserves rigorous review and analysis."

"In the coming days, this preliminary understanding will receive close scrutiny, and for that reason, Congress must fulfill its oversight responsibilities," Menendez said in a statement.

Not all members of Congress were so measured. Republican Senator Mike Kirk of Illinois compared the agreement to appeasement before World War II. "Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler," Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois said in a statement to Roll Call.

Sen. Tom Cotton, criticized by some for leading an effort by Senate Republicans to send a letter to Iran’s government in which they vowed to unravel any nuclear deal, also blasted the agreement Thursday.

"There is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons,” the Arkansas Republican said.

Providing the most optimistic response among Congressional leadership came from the second ranking Democrat, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, who said, “I’m encouraged to hear that negotiators have agreed to a framework – a major step toward achieving a final deal.”

— Leigh Ann Caldwell and Phil Helsel