WASHINGTON — It was hard to find more heated Capitol Hill reactions to President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran than from within the Texas delegation.
On Tuesday morning, the president announced that his administration had struck an agreement to constrain Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a rollback of sanctions. Republicans across the board decried the deal, but the fury from the Texas delegation was especially evident.
There was no singular complaint — Texas Republican members criticized almost every aspect of the deal. Concerns targeted the lifting of the conventional arms embargo, the lack of stipulations for the release of detained Americans, doubts about whether Iranians would allow inspectors access to sites, the deal's expiration date, the fact Iran did not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and the notion that lifting economic sanctions would increase Iran’s stature as a regional power.
The delegation released a succession of fiery statements from Republican members:
- U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said the “proposed deal with Iran is an empty assurance that falls woefully short of the goals which even the president initially set forth.”
- U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, said on the House floor that “Congress should reject this bad deal.”
- U.S. Rep. Joe Barton said in a statement that “I think it would be absolutely insane to ratify this deal.”
- U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio said in a statement, “Any promises they make require the highest level of verification.” But, he added, that is “something I do not fully trust this Administration to demand.”
- “This Administration was so concerned about building a legacy that it was incapable of walking away from what appears to be a bad deal,” said U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.
Obama indicated on Tuesday that he anticipated the congressional ire.
“I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement,” he said in the East Room of the White House, as Vice President Joe Biden stood behind him during their announcement of the deal.
“But I will remind Congress that you don't make deals like this with your friends,” Obama added. “We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction. And those agreements ultimately made us safer.”
His words did nothing to mitigate the Republican reaction.
Some of the most charged remarks came from the two Texans running for president.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz called it “a staggeringly bad deal” and “a fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States and of our closest allies, first and foremost Israel.”
Former Gov. Rick Perry labeled the deal “one of the most destructive foreign policy decisions in my lifetime.”
“As president, one of my first official acts will be to fully rescind this accord,” he added.
Capitol Hill Democrats were mixed – or muted – in their reactions. U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey was the day's most prominent Democratic critic of the deal.
In Texas, all was mostly quiet on the Democratic front. Most in the party were reluctant to comment, saying they wanted more time to study the 109-page agreement.
“I’m not ready to weigh in right now,” U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said at the U.S. Capitol.
But Obama did have at least one ally from Texas.
“This agreement has the potential to position the United States and our allies toward a future of peace and security,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in a news release.
“Initial readings of the deal’s text indicate it contains stringent accountability measures that protect against the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Going forward, Congress will have about two months to hold hearings and to digest the agreement brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna.
When the Republican-led Congress returns from its August break, the House and Senate will probably address the deal in September through legislation that will disapprove of the deal.
Obama will then be expected to veto that measure. To unravel the deal, congressional leaders would have to gather the support of two-thirds of both chambers to override the presidential veto.
“One thing is for sure — I will vehemently oppose it, work towards securing a veto-proof majority vote, and fight to ensure this deal does not happen,” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, said in a statement.
One Texas Democratic Capitol Hill staffer brushed off the veto override threat, telling The Texas Tribune on Tuesday that he believed enough Democrats will back the president.
But for other Democrats, it is a wait-and-see moment on the veto override.
“I think that’s still to be determined,” Veasey said. “It’s so early right now.”