WASHINGTON — Congress remains deeply skeptical of the landmark deal announced Tuesday to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but lawmakers are unlikely to have the votes to stop it.
While Democrats largely back President Barack Obama’s pursuit of an agreement to lift sanctions on Iran in return for measures to prevent the country from building nuclear weapons, Republicans who have the majority in both the House and Senate say the administration should walk away from a deal they fear concedes too much.
“We knew from the beginning that any deal negotiated by the Obama administration would not go far enough to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, or protect Israel from a nuclear Iran,” U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said. “If Congress approves this agreement, we will have permanently ceded economic sanctions in exchange for temporary cooperation from Iran. I voted against Congress’ review of this agreement, because it was obvious that no matter what, it would be a bad deal.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who bypassed the White House earlier this year by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to criticize the deal in an address to Congress, promised a fight.
“This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats,” Boehner said. “We will fight a bad deal that is wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.”
Congress has 60 days to vote on the agreement under legislation approved earlier this year to ensure lawmakers could play an oversight role.
“The President has facilitated cooperation with a country that openly chants, “Death to America” in the streets,” Collins said. “Now we must act to nullify this agreement as soon as possible, to protect Israel and ourselves from the disaster that will come if we continue to ignore the violence and destruction Iran will unleash on the world once they have the tools they need.”
While Congress may have enough votes to reject the deal, there would not likely be the two-thirds majority required to overturn Obama’s veto, allowing the agreement to stand.
Final votes are not expected until September, keeping the issue at the forefront of the 2016 presidential campaign.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) welcomed the deal, but said Congress “must maintain our vigilance.”
“The historic nuclear agreement announced today is the product of years of tough, bold and clear-eyed leadership from President Obama,” she said. “All options remain on the table should Iran take any steps toward a nuclear weapon or deviate from the terms of this agreement.”
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who earlier this year wrote a provocative letter signed by most in his party against the deal to the Iranian regime, called it a “terrible, dangerous mistake” Tuesday on the weekday political show “Morning Joe.”