WASHINGTON – The Obama administration and Congress clashed Tuesday over the historic nuclear deal with Iran, exposing deep rifts over a U.S. pledge to refrain from any new sanctions over the next six months in exchange for concessions on enriching uranium. The disagreement could have broad consequences for the U.S. diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
In his first congressional testimony since last months Geneva agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the diplomacy as having halted and rolled back central elements of Irans nuclear program for the first time. He pleaded not to scuttle the chances of a peaceful resolution to a crisis that has regularly featured U.S. and Israeli threats of potential military action.
Let me be very clear: This is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today, Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Were at a crossroads. Were at one of those really hinge points in history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in the international communitys concerns about Irans nuclear program. The other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict.
Kerrys appearance came as lawmakers increasingly threatened to undermine the six-month interim pact, which gives Iran $7 billion in sanctions relief over the next half-year in exchange for the Islamic republics neutralizing its higher-enriched uranium stockpiles, not adding any new centrifuges and ceasing work at a heavy water reactor that potentially could produce plutonium used in nuclear weapons.
Senate confirms pair of nominees
Democrats overwhelmed Republicans and pushed a pair of President Barack Obamas high-profile nominees through the Senate, the first to win confirmation since the chamber weakened the age-old filibuster.
By 56-38, senators confirmed attorney Patricia Millett to join the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Senate then used a 57-41 roll call to confirm Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The votes came nearly three weeks after Democrats overpowered Republicans and made it harder for the Senate minority party – currently the GOP – to use filibusters, or procedural delays, to block nominations.
Supreme Court eyes pollution rule
The Supreme Court indicated Tuesday it could breathe new life into a federal rule requiring states to reduce power plant pollution from the South and Midwest that fouls the air in the eastern U.S. Several justices suggested that they believe the Environmental Protection Agency did not exceed its authority when it issued its cross-state air pollution rule in 2011. A divided federal appeals court panel invalidated the rule last year.
The EPA sought to reduce pollution from power plants in 28 states that drifts above states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Texas led 14 states and industry groups in challenging the rule. Most downwind states support it.
Skeletons of infants found in Ohio home
A man told police he found the skeletal remains of two infants Monday in a locked footlocker while cleaning out his deceased mothers home in North Canton, Ohio. Police say the 66-year-old woman died in late November.
The police chief says its not clear how old the remains are but that it doesnt appear the children died recently.
Bond set for Toledo murder suspect
Bond has been set at $1 million Tuesday in Toledo Municipal Court for 34-year-old Anthony Bertolina, an Ohio man charged with fatally stabbing his mother, found with a hunting knife in her chest and wrapped in a blanket.
He is charged with murder in the death of his mother, 56-year-old Mary Bertolina. Police found her body Monday in a bedroom of her home after co-workers said she hadnt arrived at her job.
Arrest made in death of Ariz. teen
A suspect has been arrested in the death of a 14-year-old Mesa, Ariz., girl who was assaulted, strangled and dumped in a trash container, police said Tuesday. Alex Anthony Madrid, 31, was being held without bond on suspicion of first-degree murder, according to Mesa police.
Authorities said Madrid doesnt have a lawyer yet and has refused to talk to detectives about the death of Claudia Ann Lucero, whose body was found last week.