US Vice President Joe Biden.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Vice President Joe Biden told Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that nothing in the nuclear deal with Iran removes the option of military action, Representative Steve Israel said.
Israel told reporters outside the caucus room where Biden met lawmakers in the US Capitol that the vice president said "nothing in this agreement takes the military option off the table."
Representative Jan Schakowsky said Biden told the group that if the United States had walked away from a nuclear deal with Iran, "the entire sanctions regime would crumble."
Biden said on Wednesday he expects US congressional Democrats to back the nuclear deal with Iran once they understand it.
"I'm here to answer questions and explain what the deal is, and I'm confident they'll like it when they understand it all," Biden told reporters as he headed into the meeting with Democratic members of the US House of Representatives, many of whom have expressed skepticism about the nuclear deal announced on Tuesday.
The Obama administration is trying to rally support for the deal in the US Congress, where some Republicans have long been working to sink an agreement.
Any effort in Congress to overturn the deal will face an uphill fight. Republicans have majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate, but they would need the support of dozens of President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats to sustain a "resolution of disapproval" that could cripple a deal.
U.S. Republicans slam Iran deal
The odds of that are slim. A resolution of disapproval would need only the Republican majority to pass the House, but would require at least six Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate. The chances of mustering enough support to then overrule an Obama veto are slimmer still.
Obama vowed on Tuesday that he would veto any bill Congress passed that would prevent implementation of the Iran agreement.
Nancy Pelosi, who leads the Democrats in the House, praised Obama in a statement. "I commend the president for his strength throughout the historic negotiations that have led to this point," she said, promising Congress would "closely review" the agreement.
Senate Democrats have stood firm so far against Republican-led efforts to interfere with the talks between Iran, the United States and five other world powers. Some expressed skepticism about the deal, but others said they expected to vote for it.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a veteran Democrat who is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she would support the deal. "This is a strong agreement that meets our national security needs and I believe will stand the test of time," she said in a statement.
In the House, more than 150 Democrats, including Pelosi, signed a letter in May that strongly supported the negotiations.
"I understand the heavy lift that's involved," Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters when asked about the chances of passing a "resolution of disapproval".
Corker said the Foreign Relations committee would review the deal closely but added he would begin "from a place of deep skepticism" about whether the agreement meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Other leading Republicans went much further in their criticism. House Speaker John Boehner promised a fight.
"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 said in a statement.
Obama in May signed a law, authored by Corker, giving Congress the right to review the agreement and potentially sink it by passing a disapproval resolution that would eliminate the president's ability to waive sanctions passed by Congress.
Easing sanctions is an integral part of the deal, under which Iran will curtail its nuclear program.
Under the Iran Review Act, lawmakers have 60 days to review the agreement and decide how to respond, once they receive the agreement and supporting documentation. During that period, plus 22 more days in which Obama could veto a resolution and Congress could try to override it, Obama cannot waive the congressional sanctions.
A veto override would require a two-thirds majority in both houses, or 13 Democrats along with all 54 Republicans in the Senate, and 43 Democrats plus all 236 House Republicans.
Sanctions passed by Congress account for the overwhelming majority of those imposed by the United States. US sanctions are central to the international regime because of the country's influence on global trade and banking.