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Sen. Corker: GOP Iran letter hinders Congress' role
05:08 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Congress to give him “the space” to complete negotiations with Iran before passing legislation that could impact the nuclear deal.

“We have two and a half months more to negotiate. That’s a serious amount of time with some serious business still to do,” Kerry told reporters before he met with House members on Monday evening. “So we hope Congress will listen carefully and ask the questions that it wants, but also give us the space and the time to be able to complete a very difficult task which has high stakes for our country.”

But there was little evidence after the more than one hour-long classified session with House members that Kerry changed the minds of Republican and Democratic skeptics about the current contours of the deal.

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Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters he was “entirely unpersuaded” by the presentation and said he didn’t understand how officials could say there was even any agreement in place.

“What I see is a complete lack of understanding between the Americans and the Iranian counterparts. Once again do we have unfettered access to their military installations?” Stewart said. “We say, ‘yes’; they say very clearly, ‘no’. Do they lift sanctions the day the agreement is signed? They say, ‘yes’; we say, ‘no’.”

It was the first of what will be several briefings Kerry will give to lawmakers this week on Capitol Hill, who along with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, went over the scientific, diplomatic and economic aspects of the emerging deal.

Democratic Rep. Steve Israel said he was willing to give administration officials some more time, but he remains skeptical.

Earlier on Monday, the No. 2 House Republican backed a Senate proposal to give Congress the ability to review the deal the U.S. and other nations are negotiating with Iran.

“It’s my intention to bring it to the floor of the House and move it,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, told reporters Monday, in the first comments by a top House GOP leader on the legislation since the Obama administration announced a framework deal with Iran earlier this month.

McCarthy told reporters he spoke Monday morning with bill sponsor Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, who told him his measure is “moving very strongly in the Senate.”

The legislation’s Senate supporters, who include the No. 3 Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, are closing in on a veto-proof majority. The bill would prohibit the President from waiving sanctions on Iran imposed by Congress while lawmakers vote on the proposal.

While Kerry appealed for Congress to hold off while they completed talks, Israel, a member of House Democratic leadership, said, “I have some concerns about the substance and I believe that Congress has the right and the responsibility to vote yes or no on the substance of the deal.”

Israel wouldn’t say whether he supported the Corker legislation, but left the door open to it.

The House majority leader wouldn’t promise that the House could provide enough votes to override an expected presidential veto, saying it would depend on how the Senate vote played out. But he predicted a big Senate vote would boost the chances of overcoming that threshold in the House.

“I think they are going to have a very high number,” McCarthy said.

He blamed President Barack Obama for making the issue of Iran more divisive and pointed out that Schumer and other congressional Democrats are also skeptical of the emerging deal, which negotiators are scheduled to complete in June.

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California praised Kerry, though.

“I’m in awe of this man – how hard he is working,” he said, adding that any deal with the Iranian government “would be giving America a false sense of security” because “the radical mullahs in Iran” would still be able to get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

There were some House Democrats who did support what they heard from the top administration officials.

“The negotiations should continue to move forward without interference from Congress,” Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California said after the session.

Despite pleas for more time to discuss the talks with Iran, the Senate Foreign Relations panel will consider the Corker measure on Tuesday, but it’s unclear when a full Senate vote would take place.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated on Monday that the President would veto the Corker bill as it is currently drafted.

CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.