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AP INTERVIEW: Senate Democratic chief wants delay on Iran

ERICA WERNERMarch 4, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Key Senate Democrats led by Minority Leader Harry Reid announced their opposition Wednesday to fast action on a bill giving Congress final say on any nuclear deal with Iran.

The development appeared likely to upend Republican plans to move swiftly on the bill following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday speech to Congress in which he railed against the emerging agreement.

“I think we are better off on things relating to the Iran deal to wait until we see if there can be something negotiated,” Reid said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“And if there is something negotiated which allows a deal, then we should all jump in with all the energy we have. But until then I think it takes away from the fact that we might get a deal that’s a good deal.”

Reid also used the interview to throw cold water on the chances for Congress passing legislation to authorize military force against Islamic State fighters, and he discussed his eye injury, which he said is improving though it remains uncertain if he will fully regain vision in his right eye.

Not long after Reid made his comments, the Iran bill’s chief Democratic sponsor, Sen. Robert Menendez, sent a letter to Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell along with other Democrats announcing they would not vote in favor of the bill until after a March 24 deadline for a framework for a nuclear deal with Tehran.

The senators criticized McConnell for moving to bring the bill directly to the floor without going through the committee process. They said that route “suggests that the goal of this maneuver is to score partisan political points, rather than pursue a substantive strategy to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The bill, which President Barack Obama has said he would veto, would allow a congressional vote on any nuclear deal the U.S. might sign with Iran.

McConnell’s move set up a procedural vote for early next week on the legislation. But unless some Democrats join Republicans in backing the bill, it will not advance.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted the emerging Democratic opposition in the Senate. “It may be a situation where the president doesn’t even have to veto it because ... some legitimate questions are being raised about whether or not it’s actually going to even pass the Senate,” Earnest said.

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