WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers said on Thursday they are close to reintroducing legislation seeking a voice in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and to impose tougher sanctions against Iran, now that they control both houses of the U.S. Congress.
Senator Mark Kirk told reporters at the Capitol he expected the Senate banking committee to vote within weeks on a bill he co-authored with Democratic Senator Robert Menendez that would increase sanctions on Iran if the negotiations falter.
Menendez-Kirk was introduced in December 2013, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate when it was controlled by President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats. The White House insisted its passage could endanger international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.
The United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China reached a preliminary agreement with Iran in 2013 for it to suspend its sensitive nuclear activity in return for easing some economic sanctions.
The two sides failed for a second time in December to meet a self-imposed deadline and extended the preliminary accord by seven months. Frustrated U.S. lawmakers want Obama to be more forceful with Iran.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was working on a bill that would allow Congress to weigh in before Obama can implement any final agreement on Iran's nuclear program.
Western powers, fearing Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb, have imposed penalties that have slashed its oil exports, causing inflation to soar and the value of its currency to plummet. Tehran says its nuclear work is purely peaceful.
Iran and the six powers resume negotiations on Jan. 18.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle. Editing by Andre Grenon)