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 BoehnerFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups 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 BoehnerFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE sidestepped a question about comments by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP strategist: Putin press conference 'made Trump look weak' Release of Carter Page surveillance documents reignites debate Graham: Warrant for Carter Page surveillance was 'a bunch of garbage' MORE (R-S.C.), a 2016 presidential candidate, that the GOP's concerns about the deal are being drowned out by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump warns Iran's Rouhani: Threaten us 'and you will suffer' Pompeo: Iran's leaders resemble the mafia NYT's Haberman: Trump 'often tells the truth' 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) MenendezCNN anchors break into laughter over comedian's alleged prank call to Trump Comedian claims he tricked Trump while impersonating Dem senator Schumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms 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 KerryKerry: Trump attacks on Biden are 'unbecoming of a president' Congress has five ways to show American power against Russia Sunday shows preview: Questions linger over Trump-Putin summit MORE, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Mueller indicts 12 Russian officials for DNC hack | Trump does damage control after bombshell interview Pope to meet with oil execs to discuss climate change: report Rick Perry's travel cost Energy Department ,560 during first 7 months in office: report MORE and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system 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.