Is the U.S. making too many concessions in Iran talks?

Last Updated Mar 22, 2015 2:20 PM EDT

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that he believes the U.S. is "very close" to an agreement with Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program.

Citing conversations with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, Corker said his understanding is that the U.S. and its international allies that make up the P5+1 nations are close to reaching a broad framework for a deal to limit Iran's nuclear development with the final details to be worked out by June.

But in spite of his support for a good deal, Corker is raising concerns that the Obama administration hasn't actually achieved that.

"I don't know of anyone that doesn't want a negotiated agreement with Iran that is a good deal, one that will stand the test of time. I think the concern has been from day one that we keep moving our initial position, the P5+1, towards Iran's position. And, so, there's a concern that the administration cares more about making a deal versus the right deal," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

A bad deal, he said, could flood Iran with the monetary resources to continue spreading its influence across the Middle East in places like Yemen and Syria. He suggested it could also become a central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign if the administration doesn't rally the country around a deal.

"Instead of doing something that ends up resolving an issue, it becomes even more unresolved," he said.

The nuclear talks have increasingly become a source of tension between the administration, which is working to reach a broad agreement by the end of the month, and members of Congress, who are fighting to ensure they are able to sign off on any agreement that has been reached. Earlier this month, 47 Republicans signed a letter to Iran's leaders warning that a deal would not be final until Congress gave its consent.

Corker was one of the seven Republicans that did not sign the letter, and said on "Face the Nation," "I didn't think that it was something that was productive towards the end that I'm seeking" - that Congress have the ability to weigh in on the deal.

"What we cannot do is let drama take us off our course of, again, Congress playing its appropriate role," he said. "If Congress were to embrace the deal with Iran, it has much better chance of standing the test of time."

But he was critical of the administration for rebuffing his efforts to work with them.

"I wake up every day trying to do everything I can to move foreign policy ahead, to work with everyone. And I've never seen such resistance by an administration towards a responsible role for Congress. And I think that's obviously created some of the drama," he said, calling it "unprecedented."

While senators have been more vocal about weighing in on Iran talks, there are members of the House who are clamoring for a say as well. In early March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to both chambers of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to lobby against the negotiations.

"I think the House should have some responsibility because, just as Senator Corker said, that the House was one of the individuals that passed the sanctions that brought Iran to the table," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said in a separate interview on "Face the Nation." "Regardless of what happens, we have a responsibility with whether lifting the sanctions or imposing greater sanctions, reviewing it, and we will be able to continue to review where we go forward."

He criticized the administration for chafing at Netanyahu's speech - President Obama declined to meet with the Israeli prime minister because he visited just weeks before Israel's elections - saying, "This is about the mutual concern we have for Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon."

If no deal is reached, Corker suggested that Congress "maintain the status quo for some period of time until Iran becomes more serious about allowing us to know that they're not conducting covert activity, that their research and development activities aren't moving to a place that accelerates their ability to create nuclear weapons."

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Bob Corker as a senator from Georgia.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.