Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Official Won’t Rule Out More Iran Nuclear Negotiation Extensions, Action Without Congressional Input

Corker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Corker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, had hoped on Tuesday to get two commitments from the Obama administration: That, after one extension of the Iran nuclear talks, they wouldn’t go beyond that; and that the administration wouldn’t act to lift sanctions in any way without Congress at least weighing in first.

He didn’t get either, exactly.

“People are very, very concerned about what happens if we have a series of rolling interim agreements,” Corker told the State Department’s Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator in the multi-country talks. This month, the negotiations were extended for four months.

And he wanted Congress to have a role in any next steps on lifting sanctions.

Sherman acknowledged his concerns on both points, but didn’t fully commit.

“Senator, I have learned in negotiations that it is very difficult to say what will happen at the end of any given period of time,” she said. “Our intent is absolutely to end this on Nov. 24 one direction or another.”

Asked if she understood the problem with indefinite extensions, she answered, “I absolutely do. And indeed, we made a very conscious decision not to go for a six month extension… We might get to month five before anything happened. We are concerned about talks for talks’ sake, just as you are.”

As for congressional discussions on sanctions, she promised Corker he wouldn’t be surprised by anything in the newspapers:

“Senator, we believe strongly that any lifting of sanctions will require congressional legislative action. We cannot lift any sanctions without congressional action,” she said. “We can suspend or waive under the current legislation. We will not do so without conversations with Congress.”

That wasn’t what Corker wanted to hear. “So far the conversations have been, ‘This is what we’re going to do,'” he said.

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