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White House Selling the Iran ‘Deal’ As Negotiations Continue

Sen. Tom Cotton, right, has been the leading opponent of Obama's Iran deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Tom Cotton, right, has been the leading opponent of Obama's Iran deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The White House is effectively fighting on two fronts to keep its peace deal with Iran intact — one to sell the framework to a hostile Congress and another to push against that country’s own effort for an immediate, wholesale end to the sanctions.  

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, acknowledged Monday a difference of opinion with the Iranians on the sequence and timing of sanctions relief. Prior to the agreement, he suggested some sanctions relief would be years away and that no congressional action would be needed in the interim. The Iranians, of course, want them gone immediately, and it’s not yet clear if the pace of sanctions relief might scuttle a final deal. Earnest declined to lay odds, other than to say they were better having reached a framework agreement. Prior to reaching that agreement he had referred to the odds as no better than 50-50.  

At this point, however, with President Barack Obama having made a triumphal announcement of the agreement last week, the White House is clearly keen to keep a potential peace deal from slipping through their grasp. Earnest said the White House has engaged in robust communications with members of Congress since last week about the specifics of the deal, and said the president wanted to continue having a dialogue with Republicans such as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who have expressed an openness to reaching a deal.  

Earnest pronounced those private discussions with lawmakers as good.  

Obama has also been going to high-profile media — including an interview with Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times , to lay out his case.  

With one Iran bill already getting 66 backers in the Senate , one shy of the number needed to override a veto, the White House is in a rare position of having to play aggressive defense, even with members of their own party, lest Obama face a rare bipartisan rebuke.  

From a practical standpoint, it’s still hard to see an actual congressional override of the president — something that would take 291 in the House to ensure. But it’s also very hard to see Congress affirmatively blessing a deal with Iran anytime soon given the hostility to the deal from top Republican leaders and potential presidential candidates.  


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