Obama administration, Congress square-off over Iran deal
‘With all due respect, you guys've been bamboozled,’ says U.S. Sen. James Risch
A Senate hearing Thursday on an Iran nuclear deal was expectedly critical of the nascent agreement, but several lawmakers minced no words about their feelings of the Obama administration’s negotiating efforts.
"Not unlike a hotel guest that leaves only with a hotel bathrobe on his back, I believe you've been fleeced,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker told Secretary of State John Kerry who was testifying alongside Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
"In the process of being fleeced, what you've really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress being a pariah,” Corker added.
Not to be outdone, Sen. James Risch said assertions that the accord is a "good deal”, which the administration has ardently maintained in the face of fierce congressional skepticism, are "ludicrous”.
"With all due respect, you guys have been bamboozled, and the American people are going to pay for that,” he said. "Anyone who believes this is a good deal really joins the ranks of the most naive people on the face of the earth.”
Testifying before Congress for the first time since world powers and Iran reached a nuclear agreement with Tehran on July 14, Kerry ardently defended the administration’s negotiating team, saying, "believe me, they're a savvy group of people and nobody pulled any wool over their eyes”.
"Let me underscore, the alternative to the deal that we have reached is not what I've seen some ads on TV suggesting disingenuously. It isn't a, quote, ‘better deal’ – some sort of unicorn arrangement involving Iran's complete capitulation,” he said. "That is a fantasy, plain and simple.”
Kerry was summarily brief when asked if the U.S. could rely upon international support should it seek to bomb Iran’s nuclear program, saying, "Not on your life, no way.”
"We would be proceeding without any of our allies,” he added.
Congress began Monday a 60-day review of the agreement. The administration has sought much-needed congressional support, particularly in the Senate, to ensure that lawmakers do not have a two-thirds majority in each congressional chamber to override a potential veto of legislation that undermines the accord.
During Thursday’s largely critical hearing, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer was one of the few voices who stood in opposition to the criticism heaped on by many of her fellow lawmakers, particularly the committee’s Republicans.
"If you were bamboozled, the world has been bamboozled. That's ridiculous and it's unfair and it's wrong,” the senator said. "You can disagree for sure with aspects of this agreement, but I think we need to stay away from that kind of rhetoric,” she added.
Sen. Ben Cardin, also a Democrat, further lauded the deal, saying that "our negotiators got an awful lot.”
At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said that an agreement between Tehran and the UN’s nuclear watchdog "does not represent some sort of side deal.”
"I know there has been a suggestion by some Republicans that there” was a side deal, Earnest said.
"Our negotiating team is aware of the agreements that have been made between the IAEA and the Iranians,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Last Modified: 2015-07-24 07:12:48
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