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House rejects Obama's Iran deal
The House on Friday rejected a resolution to approve the Iran nuclear deal, with the vote underscoring how controversial the accord has been with President Obama's own party.
While most Democrats voted to approve the nuclear bargain, 25 voted against it, creating a wedge that Republicans hope to use to their advantage in the 2016 elections.
Every Republican voted against the resolution, with the exception of libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who voted "present." The tally was 162-269.
While the failure of the resolution will not prevent the nuclear pact from taking effect, the vote serves as a rebuke of Obama, who has staked his foreign policy legacy on defusing the Iranian threat through diplomacy.
Friday's vote fell on the anniversary as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, something Republicans were quick to highlight on the House floor as they accused Democrats of backing a "bad deal" that will jeopardize national security and Israel.
"Do not sacrifice the safety, the security and the stability of 300 million Americans for the legacy of one man," implored Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) as he stood next to a poster of the Twin Towers burning on Sept. 11, 2001.
After the resolution of approval failed, the House passed legislation 247-186 that would prevent Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran. That measure would expire on his successor's first full day in office in January 2017.
The day before the House votes, Senate Democrats blocked a resolution disapproving the Iran deal, leaving Republicans without a clear path forward for stopping the deal. Senate Republicans have vowed to hold more votes on Iran next week.
The Democrats in the House who opposed the Iran deal were a mix of lawmakers with different backgrounds and political situations. Some of them represent Jewish constituencies, face tough reelection races next year or identify as centrists.
The 25 Democrats who voted against approving the Iran deal were Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.), Brendan Boyle (Pa.), Tony Cardenas (Calif.), Ted Deutch (Fla.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Gwen Graham (Fla.), Gene Green (Texas), Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Donald Norcross (N.J.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), David Scott (Ga.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Albio Sires (N.J.), Juan Vargas (Calif.) and Filemon Vela (Texas).
But despite the defections, enough Democrats voted to support the deal to deprive the GOP of a veto-proof majority.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) worked closely with the White House to whip Democrats who were on the fence. Passage of a resolution against the nuclear deal would prevent Obama from lifting economic sanctions on Iran, which is a crucial part of the agreement.
Pelosi's efforts ultimately won out over intense lobbying from groups opposed to the deal, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Republicans have been unanimously opposed to the Iran deal from the beginning.
But House GOP leaders had to change course on their original plan of voting on a resolution of disapproval against the deal after an intraparty revolt.
Conservatives rallied around a proposal from Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) stipulating that the House would not vote on the Iran deal until the Obama administration provides Congress with the text of side deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Obama administration says it does not have any copy of deals between Iran and the IAEA. The agency routinely keeps agreements about nuclear inspections confidential, which the administration says is crucial for completing its mission.
But with Democrats entrenched behind Obama's accord, Republicans sought to highlight the existence of the side deals to hammer the administration.
"The president ought to release to the American people the details of these secret side agreements right now or withdraw this entire proposal," said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
The House passed a resolution Thursday arguing that Obama didn't provide Congress with all documents pertaining to the Iran deal in violation of the congressional review law passed earlier this year.
Under the congressional review law, Congress has 60 days to review and vote on the Iran deal before Obama can begin lifting sanctions against Iran. In return for the sanctions relief, Iran has agreed to scale back its nuclear program and let international inspectors in for the first time.
House and Senate GOP leaders have stated since July - when the deal was first announced - that the 60-day review period would close on Sept. 17. But House GOP leaders are now siding with conservatives who argue the review period never really started since Congress didn't receive all of the documents.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated at a Thursday news conference that litigation against President Obama over the side deals is "very possible."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled another vote on the Iran deal disapproval resolution when the chamber returns next week. The outcome, however, is unlikely to change, with 42 Democrats preventing a resolution from passing.
The White House, meanwhile, mocked the vote held on Friday by House Republicans.
"Like many decisions that are made on Tuesday night at Tortilla Coast, they seem like a great idea after a couple of margaritas," spokesman Josh Earnest said, referring to a Capitol Hill restaurant popular with conservatives. "But when faced with the scrutiny of the light of day, they don't seem quite as realistic."
Earnest expressed confidence a lawsuit would not block the U.S. from implementing the agreement.
"We obviously feel quite confident in our ability to move forward with the rest of the international community to implement this agreement."
- This story was last updated at 1:42 p.m.