The Obama administration is lobbying hard to keep senators from sabotaging fragile discussions over the advancement of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
During a White House meeting with a bipartisan group of senators Tuesday, President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to temporarily abandon any plans to slap Iran with more sanctions.
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters as he left the White House that "the president has asked for some time for this to be negotiated and see if Iran will live up to the obligations."
He also hinted that he was not entirely convinced it was the right decision.
"I think all of us are concerned. We know who we are dealing with," Corker said.
The meeting comes one day before the U.S. and its allies are expected to reignite discussions with Iran in Geneva.
Senators were expected to debate the issue as part of a wider discussion this week over the Pentagon's funding bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has employed a legislative move to keep it from coming up.
In response, senators were preparing to introduce stand-alone legislation that could be voted on after the Thanksgiving break.
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Tuesday she was encouraging her Republican and Democratic colleagues to yield to the White House's demands on sanctions. If senators continue to push for more sanctions against Iran, she warned, the U.S. could be on a collision path to war.
"It would blow things apart," Feinstein said of proposals to ratchet up the economic sanctions, which some believe have brought Iran to the bargaining table. "If you want a war, that is the thing to do. I don't want a war. The American people don't want a war. We've had years in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an opportunity to move in a different path, and we ought to try it."
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators who were deeply concerned with the White House's plan to move ahead with negotiations, warned Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter Tuesday to demand more from Iran before the U.S. softened sanctions.
Under a temporary deal, senators said the U.S. would relax economic sanctions against Iran as long as the nation agreed to slow down its nuclear weapon program. Loosening sanctions means Iranians could gain access to up to $10 billion in currently frozen assets.
"We are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability," Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Susan Collins, R-Maine and others wrote.