2 more Democrats step up for Iran deal

WASHINGTON (AP) – The latest as debate on the Iran nuclear deal opens in Congress and grips the 2016 presidential campaign. All times local (EDT):

10:20 a.m.

Two top House Democrats have announced their support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat and the whip, says “no matter how deep, how personal, and how sincere” his concerns about the agreement are, they “do not outweigh the need for a united position on Iran.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, who’s chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, says in a statement “No deal is perfect. We can always think of ways of making a deal better. But thinking is not doing. And speculation won’t stop Iran from reaching nuclear weapons capability.”

Both chambers of Congress open debate on the accord Wednesday afternoon.

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9:45 a.m.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is issuing a stern warning to Iran that the U.S. will be prepared to act if it cheats on a nuclear deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Democratic presidential candidate says at a Washington think-tank that the U.S. will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and as president she would “not hesitate to take military action” if needed to stop that from happening.

Clinton is offering her support for the landmark agreement as Congress opens debate on it. She says the U.S. must move forward with the comprehensive agreement or, as she puts it, “we turn down a more dangerous path leading to a far less certain and riskier future.”

She describes her approach as “distrust and verify.” That’s a variation of President Ronald Reagan’s “trust and verify” ethos when he dealt with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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9:30 a.m.

As the congressional debate on the Iran deal gets underway, there are fresh reminders from Tehran that hostility toward the U.S. persists despite the accord.

Iran’s supreme leader is saying that Tehran will not expand talks with the United States beyond the international negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. And he predicted that Israel won’t exist in 25 years.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statements underscore his lingering distrust of the United States. His latest remarks are likely to be seized upon by critics of the agreement as proof that Iran cannot be trusted.

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9:10 a.m.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is making the case for the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions as Congress opens debate on the accord.

The Democratic presidential contender and former secretary of state is speaking at a Washington think-tank. In her prepared remarks, she says the deal must be enforced with “vigor and vigilance.”

Opponents of the deal are stepping up, too.

Republican presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will headline a Capitol Hill rally to protest the agreement. The event is being organized by tea party leaders and pro-Israel groups that have opposed the pact.

The activity comes a day after Democrats clinched the crucial votes needed to block passage of a disapproval resolution against the Iran nuclear accord. That’s a win for the White House against united Republican opposition.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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