News Wrap: Congress challenges White House on Iran

In our news wrap Wednesday, senators pushed a bipartisan bill to impose sanctions on Iran unless the country curbs its nuclear program by a July deadline. President Obama has said he would veto such a bill. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House first.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The president faced new challenges on Iran today from here in Washington and from both sides of the Capitol. Senators pressed a bipartisan bill that imposes new sanctions unless Iran accepts curbs on its nuclear program by July 6.

    New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez helped draft the bill. At a hearing, he said Iran is dragging out negotiations.

    SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D) New Jersey: After 18 months of stalling, Iran needs to know that there will be consequences for failure. Now, some of us believe those consequences should be additional sanctions. While we are playing nice, however, Iran is playing an asymmetrical game, violating, in my view, the spirit and intent of sanctions.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The president warned again last night that he would veto a sanctions bill. And at today's hearing, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken warned, Iran would simply walk away from the talks.

    TONY BLINKEN, Deputy Security of State: Iran is well aware that a sword of Damocles hangs over its head. It needs no further motivation. So the sanctions, new sanctions at this point are not necessary, but we also believe their passage now would put at risk getting to a final deal over the next several months.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran, and Netanyahu accepted. The White House wasn't consulted in advance. It said the invitation goes against diplomatic protocol.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Shiite rebels in Yemen took the pro-American president captive in his own home today. Hours later, the state news agency reported that president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi reached a deal with the rebels. The agreement calls for the gunmen to pull away from the Hadi residence, and to give the Shiites more say in Yemen's affairs. That includes more representation in parliament.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    France has announced nearly half-a-billion dollars in new spending, over three years, to fight terror. The measures include hiring more than 2,500 new officers and expanding surveillance of some 3,000 Islamist radicals in France and abroad.

    Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the Paris attacks show the need to act.

  • MANUEL VALLS, Prime Minister, France (through interpreter):

    One should never underestimate the magnitude and the difficulty of the tasks of the intelligence services. That's why the first urgency, the first requirement is to further reinforce the human and technical means of our intelligence services. I say further because we need to go further than our commitments since 2012.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Also today, police in Belgium arrested a fifth suspect in an alleged terror cell that was raided last week.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Meanwhile, in Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appealed for more help against Islamic State forces. He said the U.S. coalition isn't moving fast enough to deliver weapons and train Iraqi troops.

  • HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq:

    There's a lot of things being said and being spoken, and very little on the ground. We are very thankful for the air campaign to support our military. But I think you cannot achieve victory without a real fight on the ground. And we are doing this fight. And we are expecting other countries to match our fight.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And, in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived home from the Middle East, saying time is running short to save two Japanese hostages. Islamic State militants are demanding $200 million to let them live.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In Nigeria, Boko Haram militants claimed responsibility today for recent mass killings. Amnesty International says up to 2,000 people died in the northeastern town of Baga. In a YouTube video, the Boko Haram leader showed off a stockpile of weapons. He warned that Baga was just — quote — "the tip of the iceberg."

  • GWEN IFILL:

    There's been another Palestinian attack on Israelis in Tel Aviv. A man stabbed 11 people on and near a bus during morning rush hour. Soon after, ambulances and medical workers rushed to the scene. The attacker was a 23-year-old man from the West Bank. Police shot him, then took him into custody.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And fighting escalated today in Eastern Ukraine, amid charges that Russia has sent more tanks and troops across the border. Associated Press video showed an armored convoy of pro-Russian forces near Luhansk. Ukrainian officials said, in fact, the Russians are supplying the fighters and weapons. Later in the day, Russia and Ukraine agreed on pulling back heavy weapons.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Back in this country, House Republicans pushed through a bill to set one-year limits on approving natural gas pipelines. Democrats said there is no need to short circuit the established process. The bill goes now to the Senate. President Obama has threatened a veto.

    And on Wall Street managed — Wall Street managed small gains on hopes that the European Union Central Bank will announce new stimulus measures tomorrow. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 39 points to close at 17554; the Nasdaq rose 12 points to close at 4667; and the S&P 500 added nine to finish at 2032.

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