Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

Kerry to Brief Banking Committee on Iran This Week

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Secretary of State John Kerry, center, at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing earlier this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to brief the Senate Banking Committee this week on the stalled nuclear talks between Iranian and Western negotiators, according to an aide to the panel.

The committee has the power to sanction the Middle Eastern nation.

Kerry was in Geneva with representatives of five other world powers but, according to reports, Western negotiators were unable to get Iranian sign-off on their preliminary document. Meanwhile, politicians in Washington must decide whether to impose stricter economic sanctions on Iran in order to hamper its capabilities to develop a nuclear program.

“Members of the Banking Committee are going to be briefed on the Geneva negotiations by Secretary of State Kerry later this week, and Chairman Johnson will not make a decision on additional sanctions until he has had a chance to consult with his colleagues following the briefing,” an aide to the committee said.

Though Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Senate leaders intend to wait for cues from the administration, advocates for increased sanctions — chiefly more hawkish Republicans — say they intend to continue their push. Just last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., indicated that supporters of sanctions could try to include language as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which could be considered in the next two weeks.

Kerry was asked Sunday at a news conference in Geneva if not having an immediate agreement with the Iranians would allow opponents a window to undermine a potential deal.

“This is an issue of such consequence that it really needs to rise or fall on the merits, not on politics,” Kerry said. “People need to stop and think about what happens each day now that you don’t have an agreement. Each day that you don’t have an agreement, Iran will continue to enrich, and Iran will continue to put centrifuges in, and Iran will continue its program.

“It seems to me that the members of Congress and others in the world understand that you need to give diplomacy the chance to exhaust all the remedies available to it if you are ultimately going to exercise your ultimate option, which is the potential use of force. The world wants to know that it was a last resort, not a first resort,” Kerry said.

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