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World

Republicans To Democrats On Iran Nuclear Deal: You Own This

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Obama won and opponents in Congress lost. Right now that's the bottom line when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal. Today the House of Representatives voted on two bills designed to show bipartisan opposition to the deal. The votes were symbolic, since there's enough Democratic support in Congress to allow the White House to move ahead. Still, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports that some insist the fight has just begun.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: On the House floor before the voting began, House Speaker John Boehner laid out the stakes.

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JOHN BOEHNER: These votes were aimed at stopping President Obama from unilaterally lifting sanctions on Iran and ensuring accountability.

KEITH: Accountability as in getting every single Democrat in Congress - most of whom will be running for re-election next year - on the record on the Iran deal.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: This is not an ordinary issue. This is an issue with a real shelf life.

KEITH: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put an even finer point on the idea of accountability.

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MCCONNELL: Foreign policy will be a big issue going into 2016. And this agreement is a metaphor for all the mistakes that this president has made.

KEITH: Or, in the words of Lindsey Graham...

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: To my Democratic friends, you own this.

KEITH: Graham is the defense hawk Republican senator from South Carolina who's also running for president.

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GRAHAM: You own every I and every T and every bullet, and you own everything that's to follow, and it's going to be holy hell.

KEITH: It's unclear whether this really will be a dominant campaign issue 14 months from now, but it very well could be since the agreement with Iran will require ongoing inspections and diplomacy, and even supporters say its success isn't assured.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest didn't seem worried about political liabilities for the Democratic Party if the Iran deal becomes a big part of the debate in 2016.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH EARNEST: If it is, I think there will be a number of Democrats making a very strong case for supporting the most effective strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

KEITH: And in the shorter-term, speaker Boehner said congressional Republicans aren't finished looking for ways to thwart the agreement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOEHNER: Today is September 11. It's a day for all Americans to come together and for us to keep the oath we swore to our Constitution. So our fight to stop this bad deal, frankly, is just beginning.

KEITH: That could mean more bills designed to prevent the president from lifting sanctions on Iran and possibly even a congressional lawsuit. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.