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US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with US delegation to Iran talks on the terrace of a hotel where the negotiations are being held in Vienna, Austria July 2, 2015..(Photo by: REUTERS)
Senators warn Kerry of 'hard sell' at home over Iran nuclear deal
Congress will have 60 days to review an agreement should one be reached in Vienna.
VIENNA -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning US Secretary of State John Kerry that approval of a nuclear agreement with Iran may be a "tough sell" on Capitol Hill.

Congress will have 60 days to review an agreement should one be reached within the next several hours here in Austria's capital, as is expected. The State Department says that "major issues" remain unresolved after 16 straight days of negotiations, though Iranian and French officials say the process will conclude by Monday.

"It’s going to be a very hard sell, if it’s completed, in Congress,” McConnell (R-Kentucky) said. “I know there will be a strong pull not to go against the president on something as important as this is to him, but I hope there will be enough Democrats willing to look at this objectively."

Congress does not have to formally approve the deal, as it is not considered a treaty. But the legislature has given itself the opportunity to vote to approve or disapprove of the deal through the resolution process.

If passed, a resolution of disapproval would be vetoed by the US President Barack Obama. But a second vote, with two-thirds support against the president's effort, would have serious consequences on its fate.

"At the end of the day I think people understand that if this is a bad deal, that is going to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, they would own this deal if they voted for it, and so they'll want to disapprove it," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), who authored the bill granting Congress a vote. "On the other hand, if we feel like we're better off with it, people will look to approve it."

Corker's bill, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, earned 98 votes in the Senate and 400 in the House of Representatives.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), one of the most prominent Democratic critics of the deal and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the deal compromises Washington's long-term deterrence with Tehran.

"Because in 12 to 13 years," he explained, "we will be exactly back to where we are today except that Iran will have $100 (billion) to $150 billion more in its pocket and promoting terrorism throughout the Middle East."

In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-California) said last week that the prospect of lifting of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, as part of the nuclear deal, "caught us by surprise."

The committee's ranking member, Eliot Engel (D-New York), expressed concern that there are no obvious alternatives to executing the agreement. But he said he could not assess the dealing without first seeing a complete version of it.

Israel says the deal greatly compromises its security, and its survival as a state in the long-term.

An interim nuclear agreement freezing the crisis, known as the Joint Plan of Action, is set to expire on July 13.
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