Pelosi gushes praise on Iran deal

Pelosi gushes praise on Iran deal
© Francis Rivera

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday gave a full-throated endorsement of President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, characterizing the historic agreement as "the best possible option" for preventing a Middle East arms race.

"I've closely examined this document," Pelosi said, holding up the text to a room of reporters, "and it will have my strong support."

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The glowing review is just the latest indication that House Democrats would likely have the numbers to sustain a presidential veto if Republicans vote to disapprove the deal, as they're expected to do.

Pelosi stopped just short of saying the Democrats could sustain such a veto, emphasizing that she wants to allow members time to examine the document and meet with constituents. But she said the "openness" of the Democrats suggests they're ready to preserve the accord.

"We're in a very positive place," she said.

"It would be presumptuous of me to talk about any kind of a vote," she added. "But there's excitement. … [It's] a good product. Not only better than the status quo, not only the best possible option, but a strong, effective … proposal for keeping the peace and stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Unveiled on Monday after years of negotiations, the landmark deal aims to block Iran from building nuclear weapons through a regimen of international inspections. In return for compliance, Iran will be freed from trade and financial sanctions.

GOP leaders have condemned the agreement, warning that it will lead to a new arms race in the Middle East and threaten the United States and its allies, particularly Israel.  

"It blows my mind that the administration would agree to lift the arms and missile bans, and sanctions on a general who supplied militants with weapons to kill Americans," Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerSpeculation mounts, but Ryan’s job seen as safe Boehner warns Trump: Don't pull out of Korea-US trade deal GOP Rep: Ryan wasting taxpayers dollars by blocking war authorization debate MORE (R-Ohio) said Thursday during a press conference in the Capitol.

“President Obama says it’s this deal or war. Well, that’s a false choice. The sanctions were working to bring Iran to its knees."

Pelosi on Thursday went after the early critics, suggesting their response is rooted in a broader opposition to anything Obama does, rather than an evaluation of the deal's details.

"I reject those who, out of hand, without reading it, have said, 'I'm against it,' " she said. "I'm encouraging my members to make their decision on the basis of reading it, and I'm very optimistic about our ability to support the president."

A number of critics have attacked the deal for not including conditions that Iran release the four Americans known to be held hostage by the Iranians. But Pelosi said the absence of their release is no reason to oppose the nuclear deal.

"It would have been good, but … this is a nuclear agreement," she said. "I appreciate the fact that since we have a nuclear negotiation, and now we have a nuclear agreement, that a much brighter light is being shown on the prisoners of conscience in Iran.

"We want those prisoners released, and the more attention that is paid to it the better," she added.
 
Under legislation enacted earlier in the year, Congress will now have 60 days to review the Iranian agreement pass a resolution of either approval or disapproval.

House GOP leaders are already eying a vote of disapproval: "We’re going to fight a bad deal that’s wrong for our national security and wrong for our country,” John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerSpeculation mounts, but Ryan’s job seen as safe Boehner warns Trump: Don't pull out of Korea-US trade deal GOP Rep: Ryan wasting taxpayers dollars by blocking war authorization debate MORE said Thursday

The disapproval legislation might never reach his desk, however, because Senate Republicans face a high bar in rallying 60 votes to pass such a bill. Thus far, Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Poll finds little support for Menendez reelection Judge tells Menendez lawyer to 'shut up' MORE (N.J.) is the only Democrat voicing strong criticism to the agreement, yet even he hasn't said he'd support a disapproval vote.

Pelosi said Thursday that she's "not exactly lobbying" fellow Democrats behind the deal, but she's "making sure people have answers" to their questions and concerns.

"I made it very clear to them my own standing on this issue and why I think this is a good agreement," she said.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. July 17

Scott Wong contributed.