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 BoehnerEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Crowley, Shuster moving to K Street On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (R-Ohio) told reporters after a GOP conference meeting.


“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 BoehnerEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Crowley, Shuster moving to K Street On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE sidestepped a question about comments by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump says he'll '100 percent' veto measure blocking emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Dems tee up Tuesday vote against Trump's emergency declaration | GOP expects few defections | Trump doubles number of troops staying in Syria to 400 On The Money: Dems set Tuesday vote on Trump's emergency declaration | Most Republicans expected to back Trump | Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown drama | Powell heading before Congress MORE (R-S.C.), a 2016 presidential candidate, that the GOP's concerns about the deal are being drowned out by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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) MenendezActing Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight 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 KerryWarren taps longtime aide as 2020 campaign manager In Virginia, due process should count more than blind team support Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents MORE, Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizWhat we learned from the first Green New Deal Overnight Energy: GOP pushes back on climate | 2018 was fourth hottest year on record | Park Service reverses on using fees Pompeo: Kerry's conversations with Iran 'unseemly and unprecedented' 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.