Overnight Defense: Obama defends Iran deal

THE TOPLINE: President Obama on Wednesday defended his administration's nuclear deal with Iran, suggesting it was a historic opportunity the U.S. should not pass up. 

"It prevents the most serious threat -- Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would only make the other problems Iran may cause even worse," Obama said during a press conference.

Obama outlined a litany of arguments for adopting the deal, saying it cuts off Iran's pathways to a bomb, provides "unprecedented, around-the-clock" international inspections to known sites and the entire supply chain and deters the threat of a nuclear Iran.

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The deal expands the breakout time for Iran to obtain enough material to build a nuclear weapon to one year by reducing the amount of centrifuges and uranium Iran can have, limiting the reactors it can build and adding further restrictions and inspection protocols.

The deal with Iran, a top priority for Obama in his second term, is being met with deep skepticism from members of Congress and others in the Middle East, particularly Israel.

A significant number of lawmakers have argued that anything short of a complete dismantling of Iran's nuclear program is a failure and question terms that lift arms and ballistic missile embargoes after five and eight years, respectively.

That would allow Iran to possess those weapons, despite its stated hostility to Israel, as well as its support for terrorism and other destabilizing forces in the region.

Obama countered that international law has a "number of mechanisms" to prevent illicit arms shipments by Iran and that it will be easier to check Iran's "nefarious" actions if it doesn't have a bomb.

Congress will have 60 days to review the deal and an additional 12 days to vote on it as part of a law passed earlier this year as a compromise between Congress and the White House.  

FIGHT OVER DEFENSE BILL LOOMS: A fight between Republicans and the White House over a defense spending is expected to come to a fore in the next few weeks, as Congress advances a defense bill the president has threatened to veto.

Senate and House Armed Services committees are expected to finish combining their respective National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bills together as early as this week, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer astronaut running for Senate in Arizona returns money from paid speech in UAE Fox's Roberts: Trump 'glared at me like I've never seen him glare at me before' Lou Dobbs: Political criticism of McCain 'not an exhumation of his body' MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate panel, said Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation.

Congress would then have two weeks to pass the final version and send it to the president's desk before a month-long recess break in August.

Although the bill is expected to pass the Republican-majority Congress, the White House has threatened to veto the bill once it reaches the president's desk, since it authorizes money according to spending caps that Obama wants Congress to lift.

In addition, the bill would authorize boosting the defense budget by adding money to a war fund that is not subject to the sequestration caps the president opposes.

The White House also opposes a number of other provisions in the bill, including restrictions on transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S., although the Senate bill includes a pathway for it.

President Obama reiterated his veto threat during a visit to the Pentagon earlier this month, and McCain said he's "very much afraid" the president will veto the bill, forcing Congress to start over the process.

McCain said the president should be targeting defense spending bills, which actually appropriate money, not the defense authorization bills, which authorize Pentagon programs and spending.

"The NDAA is an ambitious policy bill, but there is one issue this bill ultimately cannot solve: the arbitrary caps on defense spending and the mindless mechanism of sequestration created by the Budget Control Act of 2011," he said.

McCain touted the many reforms the defense bill contained, such as overhauling the Pentagon's weapons-buying and military retirement systems.

"To prepare our military to confront our present and future national security challenges, we must champion the cause of defense reform, rigorously root out Pentagon waste, and invest in modernization and next-generation technologies to maintain our military technological advantage," he said.

"The National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate last month is an important first step towards accomplishing those goals," he said.

DEMS DECRY FOCUS ON CLINTON, NOT BENGHAZI: Democrats on the House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, claimed the panel's GOP chairman has "abandoned" plans for hearings to shift the focus of the probe to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIf Mueller's report lacks indictments, collusion is a delusion Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report MORE.

"At the beginning of this year, Select Committee Republicans provided Democrats with detailed information about their plans to hold 11 hearings between January and October on a wide range of topics relating to the Benghazi attacks," the House Select Committee on Benghazi's five Democrats wrote in a letter to chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview Gowdy calls congressional hearings like Cohen's 'utterly useless' The family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case MORE (R-S.C.).

The letter gives an outline of the hearings the panel was supposed to convene, including: one in April with former Defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta to examine why the U.S. had an outpost in Benghazi and final one in October to come up with specific oversight recommendations to help prevent a similar attack from happening again.

"It appears that much of the Select Committee's work has been shelved while Republicans pursue every possible avenue of political attack against Secretary Clinton," they added.

GOP spokesman Jamal Ware refuted the charges, saying the select committee has conducted more than 30 transcribed interviews.

He said the panel would schedule interviews with officials from all agencies that may have knowledge of the attack.

He said the panel has focused on Clinton recently "to try to recover relevant portions of what should have been her public record, we would not be here today had Clinton decided the right thing instead of the 'convenient' thing to do was to use the official State Department system," according to Ware, who touted the fact that the private server was discovered by the panel.

If Democrats "insist on continuing to write, hopefully next time it will include what they are doing to bring an end to State Department stonewalling and to help the majority enforce subpoenas that have been outstanding for months," he added.

JADE HELM FEARS LAUGHED OFF: Jade Helm 15, a multi-state military exercise that's sparked wild theories about the Obama administration taking over Texas, is officially underway.

The massive size of the operation, the hush-hush nature of the military exercises and a natural tendency in the Lone Star to distrust the federal government and President Obama have created deep unease about the eight-week effort.

But mentioning the operation's name on Capitol Hill mostly generates laughter, especially among Texas lawmakers.

"Is this keeping you up at night?" House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) asked.

"I've tried to make it clear these are the operators whom we count on to stop terrorists every day and are not going to blindly follow President Obama off to confiscate our guns and round people up and put them in the bottom of Walmarts, but, that's, you know ... ", he said before shrugging.

Check TheHill.com in the morning for our full piece.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

-- Obama: US needs Iran's help in Syria

-- Issa: Being kicked out of Benghazi deposition 'wasn't a big thing'

-- GOP lawmaker: 'We'd all be speaking Japanese' if Obama negotiated end of WWII

-- Funny or Die parodies Iran deal opposition

-- Clinton reaching out to military veterans

 

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