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 BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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 BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader MORE sidestepped a question about comments by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate MORE (R-S.C.), a 2016 presidential candidate, that the GOP's concerns about the deal are being drowned out by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' 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) MenendezTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Paul blocks Senate vote on House-passed Syria resolution House to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback 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 KerryOvernight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate Democrats' debate divisions open the race to new (or old) faces MORE, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizAl Franken to host SiriusXM radio show Two years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded Biden under pressure from environmentalists on climate plan MORE and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewHogan urges Mnuchin to reconsider delay of Harriet Tubman bill Mnuchin says new Harriet Tubman bill delayed until 2028 Overnight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint 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.