The Latest: Iran deal seems on track, House to hold 3 votes

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2015 5:46 PM
The Latest:  Iran deal seems on track, House to hold 3 votes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest as Congress and the 2016 presidential campaign wrestle with the Iran nuclear deal. All times local (EDT):

5:30 p.m.

The House will be voting on three resolutions related to the Iran nuclear deal this week.

But the resolution of disapproval of the deal that the Senate is debating won't be one of them.

In a closed-door meeting, rebellious conservatives prevailed in securing votes on a resolution specifying that the Obama administration had not properly submitted the accord deal to Congress; a second, bound-to-fail vote to approve the deal and a third to prevent President Barack Obama from lifting congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran.

The House majority leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy of California, said the option of voting on a resolution of disapproval would still be available to House Republicans. However, he did not definitively say what their plans are beyond the three resolutions. No votes were expected in the House on Wednesday night.

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5 p.m.

A day of maneuvering and speechifying in and outside Congress has done little to change the reality. Barring unlikely success of an eleventh-hour gambit by the House, the international accord aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions will move ahead.

Congressional Republicans turned on each other Wednesday as they divided over how to try to stop the deal, pushing off an expected debate in the House. The Senate did open its debate.

But even if Congress succeeds in passing a disapproval resolution by next week's deadline, President Barack Obama would veto such a resolution and minority Democrats command enough votes to sustain him.

From the 2016 presidential campaign, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped forward to praise the accord, saying, "Diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection. It is the balancing of risk."

Either the deal moves forward, she said, or "we turn down a more dangerous path leading to a far less certain and riskier future."

The message was far different at a Capitol rally headlined by GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

They denounced the Iran accord, which Republicans contend will not stop the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb.

Trump told the crowd: "Never ever, ever in my life have I seen a deal so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran."

He went on to say: "We are led by very, very stupid people."

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4 p.m.

The Senate debate on the Iran nuclear deal is in motion — Republicans assailing it, Democrats defending it as the best option to keep the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons.

Republican Sen. John McCain offered a blistering critique, not just of the deal, but also of the Obama administration and its conduct of foreign policy.

The 2008 Republican presidential candidate contended on the Senate floor that the deal "embodies, and will likely exacerbate, the collapse of America's global influence that is occurring under this administration."

And as the Senate engaged in the start of the debate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky complained that the agreement is "flawed" and would leave Iran on the edge of developing a nuclear weapon while that country gets billions of dollars.

Democrats countered that there's no alternative.

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said Congress does "not have the luxury" of sending negotiators back to the table. He said if that happens, "things will fall apart."

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2:15 p.m.

Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal rallied against it outside the U.S. Capitol even as they face almost certain defeat on the issue in Congress. President Barack Obama has enough votes lined up to head off a blockage of the accord.

But in a chest-thumping speech at the rally, Donald Trump told the crowd of tea party and pro-Israel activists to get used to winning if he becomes president.

He said: "We will have so much winning, if I get elected, that you may get bored with winning."

Trump's bravado aside, Republicans who are united against the deal in Congress are divided on how to register their opposition and, in any case, don't have the votes to stop the agreement.

The rally crowd swiftly shrank after Ted Cruz and Trump spoke, with dozens of speakers still on tap.

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1:40 p.m.

Donald Trump has fessed up: His relationship with Republican presidential rival Ted Cruz is something of a bromance.

Before sharing the stage with Cruz at a Capitol Hill rally, Trump told reporters that he appreciated Cruz's backing when he made his contentious comments on immigrants, while other Republican contenders have lashed out at him.

As Trump put it: "It is a little bit of a romance. I like him. He likes me."

Cruz invited Trump to join him at the rally, held to voice opposition to the Iran nuclear deal being debated by Congress.

Cruz would undoubtedly like to attract some of the anti-establishment Republicans currently backing Trump, should he tumble from his heights in the Republican race and eventually drop out.

But Trump says: "I'm not dropping out of anything. I never drop out."

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1:30 p.m.

A nuclear deal with Iran that seems unstoppable in Congress is blazing as an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

At a Capitol Hill rally where he was joined by Donald Trump, Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz told tea party supporters and pro-Israel activists that the next president should rip the deal to shreds.

And he offered the graphic prediction that "countless" Americans and Israelis will be murdered if the deal goes through.

Earlier in the day, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed the deal even while warning Iran that, if she becomes president, she would not hesitate to use military action if Iran cheats on terms of the accord.

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12:30 p.m.

House Republican leaders are scrambling to figure out how to move ahead on votes on the Iran nuclear accord.

Divisions within the ranks forced the leadership to postpone a procedural vote on Wednesday and schedule a late-afternoon meeting for all House Republicans.

House GOP leaders had to revisit plans to open debate on a resolution disapproving of the deal.

That's because some Republicans are frustrated that a similar resolution of disapproval appears to be short of support in the Senate. Those Republicans want another approach to registering their objections to the accord.

Some want the debate delayed.

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12:15 p.m.

Hundreds of people are gathering outside the U.S. Capitol under a blazing sun to protest the international deal with Iran that Congress doesn't appear to be able to stop.

The crowd will hear from Republican presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Speakers also include Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

The group Tea Party Patriots organized the event, and people arrived on buses from Cincinnati and elsewhere. Many wore stickers supporting Cruz's candidacy and hoisted signs reading "Stop the Iran Nuclear Deal." Others folded those placards into fans to cool themselves.

There are plenty of American flags along with a few Israeli ones, and a few signs saying "Jewish lives matter." A punching bag with President Barack Obama's likeness stands on the grass.

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Noon

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz is denouncing the Iran nuclear deal inside and outside Congress.

Speaking on the Senate floor, the Texas senator called the accord a "terrible deal" that "will not stop a virulently anti-American and anti-Israeli regime from getting a nuclear bomb."

Outside, he's joining GOP rival Donald Trump in a rally against the agreement. The event was organized by tea party leaders and pro-Israel groups that have opposed the pact.

Congress opened debate on the accord Wednesday.

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11:15 a.m.

Lawmakers in Washington are getting ready for what could be the most consequential foreign policy vote of their careers — over the Iran nuclear deal.

The agreement struck by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers in July would provide Iran with hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for a decade of constraints on Iran's nuclear program.

Debate is opening Wednesday afternoon in both chambers of Congress.

The House is expected to pass a resolution this week disapproving of the accord. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California is working hard to bolster support for the deal, and she's invited ambassadors from the other five world powers to meet House Democrats later Wednesday.

In the Senate as of Tuesday, 42 Democratic and independent senators had announced support for the deal. That's one more than needed to block passage of a resolution of disapproval in the Senate.

That's a major foreign policy victory for President Barack Obama. But it's still unclear whether all 42 will go along with procedural maneuvers to prevent a final vote on the resolution. The administration is pushing for that outcome and Senate Democrats are meeting Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, a lead negotiator of the accord.

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10:20 a.m.

Two top House Democrats have announced their support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat and the whip, says "no matter how deep, how personal, and how sincere" his concerns about the agreement are, they "do not outweigh the need for a united position on Iran."

Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, who's chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, says in a statement "No deal is perfect. We can always think of ways of making a deal better. But thinking is not doing. And speculation won't stop Iran from reaching nuclear weapons capability."

Both chambers of Congress open debate on the accord Wednesday afternoon.

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9:45 a.m.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is issuing a stern warning to Iran that the U.S. will be prepared to act if it cheats on a nuclear deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The Democratic presidential candidate says at a Washington think-tank that the U.S. will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and as president she would "not hesitate to take military action" if needed to stop that from happening.

Clinton is offering her support for the landmark agreement as Congress opens debate on it. She says the U.S. must move forward with the comprehensive agreement or, as she puts it, "we turn down a more dangerous path leading to a far less certain and riskier future."

She describes her approach as "distrust and verify." That's a variation of President Ronald Reagan's "trust and verify" ethos when he dealt with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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9:30 a.m.

As the congressional debate on the Iran deal gets underway, there are fresh reminders from Tehran that hostility toward the U.S. persists despite the accord.

Iran's supreme leader is saying that Tehran will not expand talks with the United States beyond the international negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. And he predicted that Israel won't exist in 25 years.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's statements underscore his lingering distrust of the United States. His latest remarks are likely to be seized upon by critics of the agreement as proof that Iran cannot be trusted.

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9:10 a.m.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is making the case for the international agreement to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions as Congress opens debate on the accord.

The Democratic presidential contender and former secretary of state is speaking at a Washington think-tank. In her prepared remarks, she says the deal must be enforced with "vigor and vigilance."

Opponents of the deal are stepping up, too.

Republican presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will headline a Capitol Hill rally to protest the agreement. The event is being organized by tea party leaders and pro-Israel groups that have opposed the pact.

The activity comes a day after Democrats clinched the crucial votes needed to block passage of a disapproval resolution against the Iran nuclear accord. That's a win for the White House against united Republican opposition.