Republicans continue fighting Iran deal in US Congress
Deb Riechmann (Associated Press) - September 11, 2015 - 12:02am

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives were continuing their efforts to thwart the international nuclear accord with Iran, though the Senate has already sealed its fate in Congress and delivered President Barack Obama a major victory on his top foreign policy priority.

Democrats overcame ferocious Republican opposition to uphold the agreement in the Senate, where a disapproval resolution fell just short of the votes needed to move forward. Most Democratic and independent senators banded together against it, all but guaranteeing that the measure would not reach Obama's desk and the nuclear deal would move forward unchecked by a Congress controlled by Republicans.

It's an improbable win by Obama in the face of staunch opposition from the state of Israel and Republicans in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail. But Republicans remained committed to working against the international accord, as members of the House of Representatives continued to pursue eleventh-hour strategies to derail it against all odds and Senate Republicans promised a re-vote.

Undeterred, Rep. Blake Farenthold said on the House floor that Republicans are going to "use the judicial branch of the government" to prevent implementation of the deal, which gives Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for imposing restraints on its nuclear program.

"What part of 'Death to America' do you not understand?" Farenthold asked, referring to the oft-repeated refrain of Iranian hardliners. "The Iran deal is a bad deal and it needs to be stopped and we are fighting here in the House of Representatives to do that."

Beginning next week, Obama will be free to start scaling back U.S. sanctions to implement the agreement negotiated by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers. The accord aims to constrain Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.

Opponents never had much chance of blocking the deal in Congress, where Democratic minorities in the House and Senate could secure a win for Obama simply by upholding his veto of a disapproval resolution. Yet it was widely expected in the days after the nuclear deal was signed July 14 that Obama would have to use his veto pen.

Despite poll numbers showing significant public concern about the agreement, opposition never seemed to catch fire among Democrats or voters over the summer. In the end, instead of registering unified opposition to the deal, congressional Republicans turned the debate into the latest occasion for infighting within the party and between the House and Senate.

Frustrated Republicans railed against Democrats for using a procedural vote to block final passage of the disapproval resolution, and issued grim warnings about a deal they contend could serve only to enrich Tehran and leave it closer to building a bomb when constraints begin to ease in 10 or 15 years. They promised that Thursday's vote would not be the Senate's last word, and moments after it was over Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the stage for another next week.

But Democrats led by Minority Leader Harry Reid promised that any further votes would have the same outcome "and are just simply a waste of time."

In the House, Republicans had not given up on blocking the deal. After backtracking on plans to vote on the disapproval resolution when it began to look short of support in the Senate, House Republicans lined up votes on several related measures.

Late Thursday they agreed on a party-line 245-186 vote to a measure specifying that Obama had not properly submitted all documents related to the accord for Congress' review, and therefore a 60-day review clock had not really started.

That will be followed Friday by votes on a bill to approve the accord — which is doomed to fail, but Republicans want to force Democrats to go on record in favor of the agreement — and on a measure preventing Obama from lifting congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran.

"This debate is far from over, and frankly, it's just beginning," said Republican House Speaker John Boehner. "This is a bad deal with decades-long consequences for the security of the American people and our allies. And we'll use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow, and delay this agreement."

Some House Republicans, buoyed by a favorable ruling this week in a lawsuit they filed over Obama's health care law, have begun suggesting a lawsuit to stop the accord. Boehner called that "an option that is very possible."

Yet the House Republican maneuvers seemed to have little chance of bearing results. Even before the Senate voted, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was boasting of the administration's success.

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