By Mike Lillis - 04/08/15 05:57 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday announced she will oppose legislation empowering Congress to review the White House's nuclear deal with Iran.
The California Democrat said the proposal, sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerBob CorkerGlobal climate pact may bump into Senate roadblock GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Trump appoints fundraiser to national security advisory council MORE (R-Tenn.), threatens to sink the agreement at a crucial juncture in the talks.
She's urging lawmakers to oppose the measure in order to allow negotiators the space to hash out the final details of the deal ahead of the June 30 deadline.
“Senator Corker’s legislation undermines these international negotiations and represents an unnecessary hurdle to achieving a strong, final agreement.”
The issue is dividing House Democrats. Many, like Pelosi, see last week's framework agreement as real progress toward what could be a historic accord with the Iranians over their nuclear program. They're siding with President Obama in calling on Congress to delay any legislation until the negotiations are done.
But many others, siding with Republicans, are wary that the conditions imposed on the Iranians in the framework don't go far enough to prevent the development of nuclear weapons. They're backing the Corker bill as a backstop designed to block any bad deals from squeaking through.
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democrats' communications and messaging team, warned Wednesday that the deal is too important to deny Congress a vote on it.
"If President Bush had proposed this deal, I would demand the right to review it and to vote on it. President Obama is proposing this deal, I reserve the right to read it and vote on it," Israel said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "It shouldn't matter who the president is, Congress has a constitutional responsibility to weigh in on deals of this magnitude and that's exactly what we should do."
The Democratic division could prove crucial to the fate of the legislation. Both the Senate and House appear to have the votes to pass Corker’s proposal, but Obama has vowed a veto, potentially setting the stage for high-stakes veto-override votes that would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
With all Republicans expected to back the measure, House GOP leaders would need only about 45 Democrats to buck Obama and override a veto — a dynamic that will test Pelosi's influence over her caucus.
Pelosi's statement Wednesday leaves no questions about her position.
“In the weeks ahead, we must give this diplomatic framework room to succeed so that we can judge a June 30th agreement on its merits,” she said.
Corker's committee is scheduled to take up the legislation next Tuesday.
Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerCalifornia House Republicans facing tougher headwinds House and Senate water bills face billion difference Boxer, Feinstein endorse Kamala Harris in two-Dem Senate race MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Foreign Relations panel and a close Pelosi ally, urged Corker Wednesday to delay that vote and allow the talks to proceed without congressional interference.
"To force Congress to weigh in now on the Iran nuclear talks before a final deal has been completed would be a reckless rush to judgment," Boxer wrote to Corker. "It would undermine negotiations at a critical moment and could derail a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deal with this looming threat."
— This story was updated at 6:12 p.m.