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GOP 2016 candidates put onus on Congress, Hillary Clinton to reject Iran deal

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 14: Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media July 14, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Clinton is visiting the Hill today and she had a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus earlier in the morning. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong, Getty Images

Last Updated Jul 14, 2015 12:37 PM EDT

Now that President Obama's administration and its world partners have reached an agreement with Iran to freeze its nuclear program, several Republican presidential candidates are urging members of Congress -- and even their Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton -- to reject the deal.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for instance, said the deal "will be remembered as one of America's worst diplomatic failures" and stressed that Congress and future administrations can take steps to undermine or roll back the deal.

"I call on all congressional leaders and presidential candidates, including Secretary Clinton, to repudiate this agreement," Walker said in a statement. "Iran's Supreme Leader should know that a future American president will not be bound by this diplomatic retreat. Undoing the damage caused by this deal won't be easy. But when the United States leads, and has a president who isn't eager to embrace Iran, the world will follow."

Similarly, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement, "Congress should oppose this dangerous deal. Secretary Clinton should be a voice of reason and oppose this deal. While Secretary Clinton has been the architect of President Obama's foreign policy, she can do the right thing and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and oppose this deal."

Clinton, the former secretary of state who helped the Obama administration reach this point, could influence the number of Democrats in Congress who support the deal. On Tuesday morning, hours after the deal was announced, Clinton was on Capitol Hill meeting with congressional Democrats.

President Obama has promised to veto any bill from Congress that would block the United States from lifting sanctions on Iran as agreed to in the deal. However, given the widespread opposition from Republicans to the deal, Mr. Obama will need at least a contingent of Democrats to prevent Congress from overriding his veto.

After meeting with Democrats on the Hill, Clinton said that based on what she knows about the deal so far, it is "an important step in putting the lid on Iran's nuclear program." However, she suggested the deal's success is not a given.

"This agreement will have to be enforced vigorously and relentlessly," she said. The deal includes "access for inspections and transparency that was absolutely necessary," she continued, "but we have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort."

"As president, I would be absolutely devoted to ensuring the agreement is followed," she added.

Clinton also said that the United States and its partners must continue to "try to prevent and contain Iran's other bad actions." She said that Iran "remains the largest state sponsor of terrorism" and that it "unfairly, unlawfully confines and tries Americans on trumped up charges."

Former Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said in a statement that Clinton "will have to justify to the American people why she supports allowing a known state sponsor of terrorism to move toward obtaining a nuclear weapon."

He added, "I will do everything in my power to work with the Senate to oppose this deal, including reaching out to Democratic senators."

If elected president, Perry said one of his "first official acts will be to fully rescind this accord. I will order a review of Iran's compliance with the deal, and an evaluation of Iran's continued sponsorship of terror over the timeframe of the agreement. I will move to ensure that the arms embargo--and, specifically, the ballistic missile embargo -- remain in place until Iran verifiably demonstrates that it desires to act as a stabilizing force in the region."

Some of the 2016 contenders will have a chance to vote directly on a bill approving of or rejecting the deal. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who's running for the Democratic nomination praised the deal in a statement, calling it "a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

"This is a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East," he said. "I look forward to learning more about the complex details of this agreement to make sure that it is effective and strong."

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, meanwhile, said in a statement, "I have said from the beginning of this process that I would not support a deal with Iran that allows the mullahs to retain the ability to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel, and continue their regional expansionism and support for terrorism. Based on what we know thus far, I believe that this deal undermines our national security."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on MSNBC that the deal is "the most dangerous, irresponsible step I have ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called the deal "staggeringly bad" and urged Americans to "to tell their elected representatives just what they think of it."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he urges Republicans and Democrats in Congress "to put aside politics and act in the national interest. Vote to disapprove this deal in numbers that will override the President's threatened veto."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that the deal "isn't diplomacy -- it's appeasement." The deal, he said, gradually "paves Iran's path to a bomb" while providing billions in sanctions relief "that will breathe new life into Iran's malevolent and corrupt regime."