Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee are grilling Secretary of State John Kerry over the deal that the P5+1 countries reached with Iran over its nuclear program.
Kerry was greeted with applause from a handful members from the radical CodePink group. But the mood changed immediately as Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) called the hearing to order.
Corker told Kerry he's "fairly depressed" after listening to the secretary answers to lawmakers' questions Wednesday, in a classified briefing. He compared the US negotiators who worked out a deal with Iran over its nuclear program to “a hotel guest who leaves only with his bathrobe.”
“You've been fleeced,” Corker said. “Instead of Iran being a pariah, you've turned Congress into a pariah. “
He added: “If we had dealt with dismantling Iran's nuclear program, our allies in the region would not react like they did.”
Kerry replied by saying that he believed there could be no better accord than the one that was reached, which he called was "a good deal for America, for the world and for our allies."
"We set out to dismantle [Iran's] ability to build a nuclear weapon and we achieved that," he said, calling the idea that a better deal could be reached to a unicorn, and saying "it's a fantasy."
Thursday's session, which started at 10:00 EST, pits Kerry – along with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew – against lawmakers, many of whom are hostile to the deal.
Lew told the senators Thursday that Iran is in "a massive financial hole" and would not be free to simply take of the money it is set to receive when sanctions are lifted and invest it in Hezbollah and other nefarious activity.
Congress can reject the deal, and keep the sanctions in place, but President Barack Obama can veto that decision. A hard-to-achieve two-thirds majority would be required to overturn the veto.
House Speaker John Boehner has already vowed Republicans would "do everything possible to stop" the agreement.
Concern has risen in Congress over the existence of “side agreements” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of the deal negotiated between Iran and world powers to regulate Tehran's nuclear program.
At least two Congressmen have expressed concern over the existence of these agreements, which they said the US was not privy to.
Meanwhile, officials in the Obama administration denied there were "secret side deals" in the Iran agreement.
In a statement Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) said they had been told by an IAEA official about the existence of these agreements, but that they would not be revealed to American legislators, who are now tasked with approving the Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo told reporters that when he asked Secretary of State John Kerry about the codicils, he was told the US needed to “trust” the IAEA, a situation he called “unacceptable."
"I was incredibly surprised to learn there were components of the deal that Congress was not going to be privy to,” Pompeo and Cotton said in a statement.
White House National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice confirmed the existence of such documents, saying they had not been provided to House and Senate representatives because the US did not have access to them.