WASHINGTON -- Republican lawmakers unanimously denounced an historic agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five world powers on Tuesday, promising to fight the accord tooth and nail once a congressional review period ends later this year.
“The deal in my view, from what I know so far, is unacceptable,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a weekly press conference, noting it would provide “billions in sanction relief while paving the way for a nuclear Iran.”
"Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran -- the world’s largest sponsor of terror -- by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region," Boehner added. "Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world."
Boehner's second in command, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), echoed the sentiment. He promised House Republicans would "fight hard to reject this deal with any tool we have."
The success of such an effort remains unclear, however. In announcing the deal, President Barack Obama threatened to veto any attempt by Congress to override the agreement. Boehner, notably, did not commit to an effort to override a presidential veto in his press conference, saying only that no decisions have been made on how to proceed.
Congress has two months to review the agreement once documents are officially submitted to both the House and Senate. Lawmakers may then pass a resolution that approves or disapproves of the deal, or may simply do nothing. If Congress votes to disapprove, Republicans must sustain two-thirds of both the House and the Senate to override a presidential veto. Critics of the Iran deal would thus need to convince 13 Democrats in the Senate and 43 in the House to break with Obama -- an unlikely scenario.
Over in the Senate, Republicans expressed equal distaste for the deal with Iran. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is tasked with managing the congressional review process, cautiously withheld his judgement to reporters on Tuesday. But he signaled where he stood by commenting that the accord was already on a "downward trend" due to several provisions -- such as one that would phase out the non-nuclear arms embargo on Iran.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy, didn't mince words. He called the deal "delusional and dangerous,” arguing it would allow Iran to retain “an industrial-scale nuclear program.”
Republicans were less unified on the prospect of overriding a presidential veto. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Obama would encounter difficulty in keeping members of his own party in line -- even though a majority of Senate Democrats on Tuesday indicated cautious optimism.
"The president is the most important Democrat in the country and he's obviously in favor of this," McConnell said. "He negotiated it -- he's going to work hard to get the 34 votes that I know he knows he needs in order to sustain it. So it'll be a real challenge for him because I think it falls short in a lot of ways."
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he was confident that Republicans would undo the agreement. Appearing in an interview on MSNBC, the foreign policy hawk, who authored a letter to Iran earlier this year threatening to rescind a nuclear agreement, said that the "American people will repudiate this deal and I believe Congress will kill the deal."
Other Republicans were less certain of that assessment.
"He'll have all the Democrats, if most of them," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of the president. "It’s hard to override a veto. I mean there’s always hope, but you can’t bet on hope."