WASHINGON - Secretary of State John Kerry and other administration officials escalated their campaign to win support for the Iran nuclear deal, traveling to the Capitol for a pair of closed-door briefings.
“This is a day we’ve been looking forward to,” Kerry said Wednesday, as he made his way into the first of the briefings for House and then Senate lawmakers. “We get to get out of the politics and into the facts.”
Kerry was joined by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. All three are scheduled to testify in an open hearing on Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
After the hour-long House session, lawmakers described a question-and-answer period and discussion that some said at times became feisty and testy. That reflected the high stakes under a law giving the Republican-led Congress 60 days to review the agreement and potentially vote against it.
President Barack Obama has said he would veto a resolution of disapproval, which would require opponents to muster a two- thirds majority of lawmakers in Congress to override his action.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a California Republican, said there was “bipartisan skepticism” in the closed session about whether Iran will keep its commitments to curb its nuclear program.
Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, said Kerry “was factual, he was forthright and from my perspective convincing.”
Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, said he thought that members who came into the briefing opposed or supportive generally left with their opinions unchanged.
Israel, who said he was among the undecided lawmakers, said no information emerged during the meeting that provided an “epiphany.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said a number of lawmakers commented that Kerry was conducting himself in a “condescending” manner.
Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California, asked about that description, responded that Kerry “truly believes this is a good deal.”
Lowenthal said he is still studying the deal, though, and making up his mind.
Sen. Richard Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said he supports the deal and thinks the response among his party members is “very encouraging.”
“We need to seize this moment to make the Middle East safer, to make the world safer,” he said.
After the briefing, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican presidential candidate, urged colleagues to reject the Iran agreement and hold out for a better one.
“There is a better deal awaiting the world and the United States,” Graham said. “This is the best deal President Barack Obama could get because he is so weak in the eyes of our enemies.”