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A group of House Democrats have banded together to raise various levels of alarm about the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to revive a nuclear deal with Iran, saying the terms of the reported deal are deeply troubling.
Led by Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia, the group of 18 Democrats say the US should not enter into a bad deal with Iran that allows its terrorist activities to go unchecked and fails to prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“We understand that while recent negotiations have not concluded, we feel that we can not remain silent about the unacceptable and deeply troubling turn that these talks have reportedly taken,” Luria said at a news conference Wednesday with fellow Democrats.
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Negotiations have been ongoing in Vienna for the US to rejoin the international deal that President Trump pulled out of in 2018. Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are still part of the deal with Iran and have been trying to salvage it. There have been reports for the last month that negotiators are close to an agreement, which has created a sense of urgency among the Democrats to speak out.
One major concern for the lawmakers is the prospect that the US could agree to Iran’s demand that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) would no longer be designated as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Another concern is about Russia’s reported role in brokering and enforcing a potential deal.
“Are we seriously going to let a war criminal, Vladimir Putin, be the guarantor of this deal?” Gottheimer said.
The message Democrats want to send to the Biden Administration is: “We need a longer and stronger deal, not one that is shorter and weaker. It’s time to stand strong against terrorists, protect American values and our allies,” Gottheimer said.
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Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., Said the Biden administration has kept Congress in the “dark” and the way the secret talks have gone reminds him of the original 2015 deal.
“It’s a little bit like last time. They keep us in the dark. Then it turns out there are some fatal flaws,” he said.
“It was a bad deal then, and it’s a bad deal now,” Vargas added.
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The 18 members that banded together Wednesday have various degrees of apprehension about the deal – ranging from concern to outright opposition, Luria told reporters.
They want firm commitments they’ll an opportunity to vote on a new Iran deal. They say any new agreement is subject to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act passed in 2015 that requires the administration to submit any deal to Congress for review within five days of it being reached.
To actually thwart a deal in Congress, that would require a veto proof two-thirds majority vote in both chambers – an uphill battle with Democrats in control of both the House and Senate.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., Stressed that he’s in favor of diplomacy and a working out a better deal, despite raising “grave concerns” about past Iranian behavior.
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“This is not a whip operation,” Phillips said of generating veto-proof votes in Congress. “This is not a group trying to generate opposition to the deal by any stretch of the imagination.… We’re standing concerned about what we hear.”
The Democrats raising concerns with the Iran nuclear deal are: Gottheimer, Luria, Phillips, Vargas, Donald Norcross of New Jersey, Jared Golden of Maine, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Haley Stevens of Michigan, Tom Suozzi of New York, Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania , Darren Soto of Florida, Val Demings of Florida, Jim Costa of California, Grace Meng of New York, Lois Frankel of Florida, Kathy Manning of North Carolina, Shontel Brown of Ohio and Susie Lee of Nevada.
“We can not afford another failed agreement,” Luria said.