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Congress To Begin 60-Day Review Period Of Iran Nuclear Deal


Lawmakers in Washington have been waiting for months to pick apart the accord with Iran. Now they're getting 60 days to review it, culminating with an opportunity to reject the agreement. But as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, it will be an uphill battle to kill the deal.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Within hours after a nuclear agreement with Iran was announced, Republicans could barely contain themselves. Many admitted they hadn't yet read all 159 pages of the deal, but they knew enough.


MITCH MCCONNELL: The Iranians appear to have prevailed in this negotiation.

CHANG: As soon as the Senate opened this morning, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the deal, saying it amounted to nothing more than an avalanche of concessions made by the White House.


MCCONNELL: Ending Iran's nuclear program was supposed to be the point of these talks in the first place. What's already clear about this agreement is that it will not achieve - or even come close to achieving - that original purpose.

CHANG: And in perfect bicameral symmetry, at nearly the same time McConnell was speaking, House Speaker John Boehner vowed to do his best to stop what he suspected was a bad deal.


JOHN BOEHNER: The deal that we have out there, in my view, from what I know of it thus far, is unacceptable. It's going to hand a dangerous regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief while paving the way for a nuclear Iran.

CHANG: To be sure, even the harshest critics among Republicans said there were still a few things they needed to figure out. How intrusive will these inspections be? How quickly will sanctions against Iran be lifted? How much does Iran have to reveal about any past efforts to militarize its nuclear program? To answer these questions, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said his Republican colleagues might want to first sit down and read.


DICK DURBIN: I've talked to 15 or 20 senators this morning on this topic. And the Democratic side, they have all said, we want to take the time to read this, it's embarrassing the Republicans are standing up and saying they're against it.

CHANG: If Congress votes to reject the deal, the president has already promised to veto that measure, and he'd only need to win over one-third of Congress to repel any attempt to override his veto. Most Republicans are opposed to any agreement with Iran, so it will be up to Democrats to defend the accords. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware is among the Democrats who haven't yet made up their minds.

Do you think the White House still needs to be in sell mode on this deal?

CHRIS COONS: The United States needs to be in persuade mode. The United States needs to inform, educate and persuade Democrats that they have in fact achieved an historically durable and enforceable agreement.

CHANG: And Coons still has his doubts.

COONS: The most obvious and important concern is that Iran has a long record of supporting terrorism globally, in the region, of arming and supporting some of our enemies. They have a long record of cheating.

CHANG: The U.S. and Iran have had a long and messy history. But if this deal is to succeed, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California says lawmakers will have to look at Iran in a new light.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: You know, nations do change, and despite Iran's rhetoric, the president of Iran was elected because he wanted to bring about a more moderate government in Iran.

CHANG: Democrats on the fence have mostly held their fire for now. Scrutiny of the agreement will only intensify in the weeks ahead, as both chambers prepare for a slew of hearings on the deal. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.