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Congressional Concerns: Kerry Briefs Lawmakers on Iran Deal

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he was eager to meet with lawmakers to clear up any “misrepresentations” about the ongoing negotiations.
/ Source: NBC News

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday before a closed-door meeting about the Iran nuclear deal with the House of Representatives that he was eager to meet with lawmakers to clear up any “misrepresentations” about the ongoing negotiations.

Kerry’s visit to the Hill is designed to help shore up congressional support for an Obama administration-backed proposal intended to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew were meeting with House members Monday afternoon ahead of a Tuesday hearing to finalize a bill that would require Congress approve any Iran nuclear deal before Congressional sanctions in Iran are lifted.

Kerry said Monday that he was looking forward to “the opportunity to share thoughts, listen to questions, have a chance to have a discussion with the members of the House” about the Iran nuclear deal.

“I am particularly pleased to be able to go into some detail because there has been a lot of representations — misrepresentations — a lot of questions raised,” he said. Kerry also noted that world powers had until June to negotiate a final deal.

"It is undeniable that the version of the nuclear agreement outlined by the Obama administration is far different from the one described by Iran’s Supreme Leader — on inspections, sanctions relief and other critically important issues," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement over the weekend. "These widely divergent explanations of the nuclear deal must be fully explained and reconciled if we are to give serious consideration to this agreement.”

The State Department said earlier Monday that it is open to the “concerns” of Congress, but ultimately the nuclear deal will be decided by the experts at the negotiating table.

The U.S. was among the six world powers that hammered out a controversial framework with Iran aimed at blocking that nation from developing a nuclear weapon. As part of the proposal, Iran would agree to international inspections and steer clear of crafting weapons-grade plutonium and limit enriched uranium production—critical components needed to make a nuclear bomb.

In exchange, some economic sanctions against Iran would be lifted.

In the U.S., the proposal has been fraught with political back-and-forth as lawmakers continue to spar over the details, including whether Iran can be trusted to uphold its end of the bargain.

Matters were further complicated when Iranian leaders and the world powers who helped craft the framework seemed to differ on the details.

According to a recent NBC News poll, most Americans don’t trust that Iran will uphold its end of any bargain struck.

Nine Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are co-sponsoring a Republican bill that would help Congress stymie efforts at lifting sanctions against Iran. The Democrats supporting the legislation are between a rock and a hard place as they try to balance their own desires to put a stamp on foreign policy with the White House’s wishes and those of the pro-Israel lobby.

Kerry, who will meet with more lawmakers on Tuesday, has echoed the White House’s request for patience as it presses forth in sensitive dealings with Iran.

"What we're looking for is not to have Congress interfere with our ability, inappropriately, by stepping on the prerogatives of the executive department of the president, and putting in place conditions and terms that are going to get in the way of the limitation of a plan," Kerry said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."


—Halimah Abdullah