Obama says opposition to Iran deal over politics, not merits
CHILMARK, Massachusetts (AP) — President Barack Obama said Republicans are reflexively opposing the Iran nuclear deal because his name is on it, brushing off criticism from a majority in Congress.
Ahead of next month’s deadline for a vote that could derail the agreement, Obama argued in two interviews released Monday that solid Republican opposition was unsurprising. He cited Republicans’ resistance to his health care law and budget proposals as evidence that their recent hostility had nothing to do with what’s in the deal.
“Unfortunately, a large portion of the Republican Party, if not a near unanimous portion of Republican representatives, are going to be opposed to anything that I do,” Obama told NPR News.
That hasn’t always been the case.
In June, Republicans drove legislation through that gave Obama expanded authority to negotiate trade deals with Europe and Asia, even as many in Obama’s own Democratic Party deserted him. Many Republicans also have shown a willingness to work with Obama on criminal justice matters and on military spending that exceeds caps imposed by both parties.
On the Iran deal, Obama has tried to discredit the opposition and attract as much Democratic support as possible before Congress votes on the agreement roughly a month from now. The White House has acknowledged that Congress probably will pass legislation opposing the deal, which Obama will veto. Obama’s goal is to secure enough Democratic votes to prevent Congress from overriding his veto.
So far, only 34 members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, have announced support, along with 17 Democratic senators. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Monday became the latest to side with Obama. It takes a two-thirds vote of the 435 House members and 100 senators to override a presidential veto.
A blow came last week when New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, in line to be the top Democrat in the Senate, announced his opposition. Obama’s interviews were recorded before Schumer’s announcement, but were released Monday as the White House tried to keep the president’s voice in the debate during the August lull. Lawmakers have left Washington for their annual congressional recess, and Obama is on the island of Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts for his family vacation.
In an interview with online news site Mic, Obama shifted his focus to young people, including some in Iran and Israel who posed questions to the president via video.
Asked by a 22-year-old woman in Iran why Obama had to hurt the Iranian people with harsh economic penalties to get a deal, Obama said his hand was forced because his outreach to Iran’s supreme leader went unrequited while the U.S. caught Iran secretly enriching uranium at its Fordow facility.
“Unfortunately we didn’t have a better way of doing this,” Obama said. “What we had to do was to more severely enforce sanctions so that Iran had greater incentive to come to the table and negotiate.”
Also Monday, the White House said Obama will host a nuclear security summit in late March and early April in Washington.
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