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Republican leaders deride Iran deal ahead of key briefing

Republican leaders deride Iran deal ahead of key briefing
© Francis Rivera

House GOP leaders dug in their heels Wednesday, expressing grave concerns about the Iran nuclear deal ahead of a crucial closed-door briefing on the accord.

While the agreement struck by President Obama “may have been applauded at the United Nations, I think he faces serious skepticism here at home,” Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Ohio) told reporters after a GOP conference meeting.

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“Let me just assure you that members of Congress will ask much tougher questions this afternoon when we meet with the president’s team,” he added. “Because a bad deal threatens the security of the American people and we’re going to do everything possible to stop it.” 

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE sidestepped a question about comments by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.), a 2016 presidential candidate, that the GOP's concerns about the deal are being drowned out by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE's run for the White House.

"I'll let Lindsey's words speak for themselves," Boehner said.

“I continue to see more concerns on our side and the other side of the aisle,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said.

He cited comments from Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezJustice Dept intends to re-try Menendez in corruption case DACA is neither bipartisan nor in America's interest Senate DACA deal picks up GOP supporters MORE (N.J.), the deal’s most vocal Democratic critic, that the accord "preserves" Iran's nuclear program and a Washington Post/ABC News poll from Monday that found 64 percent of respondents are not confident the deal will prevent a nuclear Iran.

“Of all the issues we have before us, this is the most critical,” according to McCarthy. “We have to get this right because the world will never be the same.”

Boehner made the remarks hours before Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes Kerry2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states When it comes to Colombia, America is in a tough spot 36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020 MORE, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOvernight Energy: Pruitt defends first-class travel | Watchdog says contractor charged Energy Department for spas, lobbying | Experts see eased EPA enforcement under Trump Obama energy secretary named to utility giant’s board Give Trump new nukes and we are that much closer to war MORE and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewBig tech lobbying groups push Treasury to speak out on EU tax proposal Overnight Finance: Hatch announces retirement from Senate | What you can expect from new tax code | Five ways finance laws could change in 2018 | Peter Thiel bets big on bitcoin Ex-Obama Treasury secretary: Tax cuts 'leaving us broke' MORE are due to give a classified briefing on the deal to the entire House.

The session could prove an early make-or-break point for the administration’s two-month lobbying effort to sell the agreement to a skeptical Congress. 

Republicans have vowed to vote against the deal, and many Democrats remain on the fence. If the White House’s sales job stumbles out of the gate, it could boost the chances of Congress overcoming a presidential veto to reject the deal.

McCarthy said he’s looking “forward to questions, but more importantly I look forward to the answers” in today’s hearing.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) predicted debate over the deal would continue through lawmakers' August recess.

He also singled out a measure in the deal that gives Tehran 24 days to address concerns about sites suspected of nuclear activity and agree to inspections, saying the provision was “applauded" in Iran.

--This report was updated at 11:51 a.m.