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Republicans Likely Will Oppose Iran Deal, But Find It Hard To Derail


And after 17 days of deadline negotiating and very little sleep, diplomats in Vienna have reached what's being described as an historic nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement between Iran and six world powers would give U.N. inspectors more access to Iranian nuclear sites. In return, Iran gets something it has been demanding - an easing of economic sanctions. Now, time will tell whether this deal is considered a foreign policy success for President Obama. What is certain now is there's major disagreement on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - a Republican - said the president approached this deal from a, quote, "flawed perspective." He said Congress will hold hearings and approve or disapprove. Earlier this morning, we asked NPR congressional correspondent Ailsa Chang what role Congress will be playing.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: So now a 60-day congressional review period kicks in. Actually, it doesn't kick in until Congress officially receives copies of this deal, which could take a few days. But after the review period kicks in, the White House cannot lift any congressionally-mandated sanctions against Iran for 60 days. And during that time, we're going to see plenty of hearings on the Hill and likely an eventual vote, either on a resolution of approval or a resolution of disapproval on the deal. Or Congress could decide not to vote on anything at all.

GREENE: OK, so Congress weighs in a way by approving any removal of sanctions. That seems to be an important role here. There's this review period. They could take a vote. I mean, could Congress derail this entire deal if they wanted to?

CHANG: It's possible that they can derail the deal, but it will very hard. So basically, let's say Congress decides to put together a resolution of disapproval and let's say that resolution passes both chambers. The president will veto that resolution and then we're going to need a two-thirds majority of Congress to override that veto. So in the Senate that means 67 senators have to band together to oppose this deal, or in other words, the president just needs 34 senators to go along with it. And that is doable, but we are expecting that vote to be very, very tight right now based on comments and statements we've been hearing for months leading up to today.

GREENE: You know, I mean, there's some lawmakers who have made this deal, I mean, their sort of soul mission to talk about how it's a - they think it's a bad idea. They've been criticizing these negotiations from the start. I mean, are those arguments gaining traction with lawmakers who sort of were undecided about this?

CHANG: We'll see. There's a group of Republicans - a large group - that very generally basically have been opposed to any deal with Iran. No matter whatever ended up in the deal, the basic thinking is Iran cannot be trusted. The U.S. should have never entered negotiations with Iran. If you'll remember back in March, 47 Senate Republicans sign onto a letter to Iranian leaders basically saying, look, if you enter this agreement with the U.S., it may not last past President Obama. Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas drafted that letter...

GREENE: Made a lot of news, yeah.

CHANG: Exactly, and a lot of his Republican colleagues do agree with him, at least, that is, that the original goal of these talks in the first place was to kill, was to stop, Iran's nuclear program. And what's bothering a lot of them right now is that doesn't seem to be happening anymore. Here's Republican Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.


KELLY AYOTTE: It went from trying to end their program to essentially contain or manage the program, so that's a fundamental difference I have with the administration.

GREENE: But there would have to be Democrats on board with trying to derail this deal. It can't be just Republicans, right?

CHANG: That's right. Even if all Senate Republicans band together to oppose the deal, they still need more than a dozen Senate Democrats to override a presidential veto. And there's an array of issues they are going to be zeroing in on. First, verification - whatever happened to anytime, anywhere inspections? It doesn't look like that's quite what they got under the deal and members will have to decide if the mechanism that got set up is close enough.

GREENE: That's NPR congressional correspondent Ailsa Chang. Ailsa, thanks a lot.

CHANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.