The Latest: GOP scrambles to settle divisions on 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):

12:30 p.m.

House Republican leaders are scrambling to figure out how to move ahead on votes on the Iran nuclear accord.

Divisions within the ranks forced the leadership to postpone a procedural vote on Wednesday and schedule a late-afternoon meeting for all House Republicans.

House GOP leaders had to revisit plans to open debate on a resolution disapproving of the deal.

That’s because some Republicans are frustrated that a similar resolution of disapproval appears to be short of support in the Senate. Those Republicans want another approach to registering their objections to the accord.

Some want the debate delayed.

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12:15 p.m.

Hundreds of people are gathering outside the U.S. Capitol under a blazing sun to protest the international deal with Iran that Congress doesn’t appear to be able to stop.

The crowd will hear from Republican presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Speakers also include Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

The group Tea Party Patriots organized the event, and people arrived on buses from Cincinnati and elsewhere. Many wore stickers supporting Cruz’s candidacy and hoisted signs reading “Stop the Iran Nuclear Deal.” Others folded those placards into fans to cool themselves.

There are plenty of American flags along with a few Israeli ones, and a few signs saying “Jewish lives matter.” A punching bag with President Barack Obama’s likeness stands on the grass.

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Noon

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz is denouncing the Iran nuclear deal inside and outside Congress.

Speaking on the Senate floor, the Texas senator called the accord a “terrible deal” that “will not stop a virulently anti-American and anti-Israeli regime from getting a nuclear bomb.”

Outside, he’s joining GOP rival Donald Trump in a rally against the agreement. The event was organized by tea party leaders and pro-Israel groups that have opposed the pact.

Congress opened debate on the accord Wednesday.

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11:15 a.m.

Lawmakers in Washington are getting ready for what could be the most consequential foreign policy vote of their careers – over the Iran nuclear deal.

The agreement struck by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers in July would provide Iran with hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for a decade of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

Debate is opening Wednesday afternoon in both chambers of Congress.

The House is expected to pass a resolution this week disapproving of the accord. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California is working hard to bolster support for the deal, and she’s invited ambassadors from the other five world powers to meet House Democrats later Wednesday.

In the Senate as of Tuesday, 42 Democratic and independent senators had announced support for the deal. That’s one more than needed to block passage of a resolution of disapproval in the Senate.

That’s a major foreign policy victory for President Barack Obama. But it’s still unclear whether all 42 will go along with procedural maneuvers to prevent a final vote on the resolution. The administration is pushing for that outcome and Senate Democrats are meeting Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, a lead negotiator of the accord.

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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.

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