While stressing their support for the Iran nuclear weapons deal on Monday, U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) expressed optimism that the U.S. House could sustain a promised presidential veto of congressional legislation seeking to block the agreement.
If a joint resolution against the deal were to pass Congress, a two-thirds vote in both chambers would be necessary to override President Barack Obama's expected veto of such legislation.
"It seems as if the Republicans are determined to vote to disapprove the agreement, which I think would be a serious, serious mistake," Schakowsky said during a press conference at the Thompson Center.
However, the congresswoman said she suspects there won't be a veto-proof majority in the House to override a presidential veto. And achieving a two-thirds vote for an override is also expected to be difficult in the Senate, according to reports.
But if the agreement does get thwarted, Schakowsky said some of the potential consequences include a "collapse" of the international sanctions regime, Iran having no constraints to advance its nuclear weapons program, and "no more inspections whatsoever and no insight into all of Iran's activities."
"My hope is that those skeptics and those critics [of the deal], though they raise important questions, will understand at the end of the day there is no good alternative, probably ultimately, other than the use of military force and another war in the Middle East to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon," Schakowsky stressed.
Monday marked the start of Congress' 60-day review of the deal, which is aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear weapons program. Congress is expected to take a vote on the agreement -- which was reached between Iran and the P5+1 nations including the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany -- in September.
The agreement essentially eases sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on the nation's nuclear weapons program. On Monday, the United Nations Security Council signed off on a resolution that sets the stage for lifting United Nations sanctions against Iran as part of the deal.
In explaining why she backs the agreement, Schakowsky said, "For me the choice is clear: Diplomacy over war."
For his part, Gutierrez described the agreement as "our best chance at a peaceful resolution of Iran's nuclear ambitions."
Opponents of the agreement argue in part that the deal puts Iran on a path to becoming a nuclear weapons state in the future.
Gutierrez countered that argument by reading from the agreement, which "affirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons."
"To everyone who complains that this deal is not good enough, I want to know what their alternative is, given that Iran today possesses the nuclear fuel to create 10 atomic bombs," Gutierrez said. "They're three months away. What's your solution? ... I don't think those who are planning to vote against this agreement in the House have any realistic alternatives."
Others have criticized the agreement because it does not cover issues beyond Iran's nuclear program.
But, Schakowsky argues, that does not mean Iran will be let off the hook on other matters.
"Even with this deal, we're going to work closely with Israel, our Gulf allies and other partners to combat Iranian support for terrorism and to counter Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, and we will maintain our own sanctions on Iran over its terrorist activities, human rights abuses and ballistic programs," the congresswoman said. "Those sanctions that the United States have will not disappear. And we will also sustain our efforts to bring home U.S. citizens that have been detained in and are missing in Iran."
Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, joined the representatives at the press conference.
Bronson, also an adjunct professor of global initiatives in management at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, acknowledged that the Iran nuclear weapons deal alone "will not bring peace to the Middle East."
"There is an enormous number of regional problems that we've seen in the press and certainly exists," she said. "We must leverage this deal to begin to solve those problems. This deal in itself will not solve those problems. It gives us a basis for discussion to move us forward in changing the dynamics of the Middle East, but there is still a lot of work to do."
Alan Solow, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, also spoke in support of the agreement.
"There is no better deal available, should Congress foolishly reject this opportunity to advance the defense of the United States," he said. "Let's not fall into the fantasy world of those who are criticizing the deal who suggest, 'Well, we'll just go back to the negotiating table with Iran and everything will be better. We'll ratchet up the sanctions.'"
Regarding increased sanctions, Solow said the United States would "stand alone" on such an effort. He pointed to the United Nations Security Council's Monday vote paving the way to ease international sanctions against Iran.
"We know what the history is of the United States having sanctions by itself on Iran's nuclear program," he said. "They didn't work. Iran marched towards a nuclear bomb. It was only when we got the backing of the international community to place collective sanctions on Iran that Iran was brought to the negotiating table to reach the historic agreement that the president announced last week."