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Obama says GOP opposition to Iran deal based on politics, not merits

CHILMARK, Mass. -- Brushing off criticism from a majority in Congress, President Barack Obama said Republicans are reflexively opposing the Iran nuclear deal because his name is on it.

Ahead of next month's deadline for a vote that could derail the agreement, Obama argued in two interviews released yesterday that solid GOP opposition was unsurprising. He cited Republicans' resistance to his health care law and budget proposals as evidence that their recent hostility had nothing to do with what's in the deal.

"Unfortunately, a large portion of the Republican Party, if not a near-unanimous portion of Republican representatives, are going to be opposed to anything that I do," Obama told NPR News.

That hasn't always been the case.

In June, Republicans drove legislation through that gave Obama expanded authority to negotiate trade deals with Europe and Asia, even as many in Obama's own party deserted him. Many Republicans also have shown a willingness to work with Obama on criminal justice matters and on military spending that exceeds caps imposed by both parties.

On the Iran deal, Obama has tried to discredit the opposition and attract as much Democratic support as possible before Congress votes. The White House has acknowledged that legislation opposing the deal will probably pass, which Obama will veto. His goal is to secure enough Democratic votes to prevent Congress from overriding his veto.

Some three dozen House members, all Democrats, have announced support, along with nearly 20 Democratic senators. Yesterday, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar became the latest to side with Obama.

"There is no other alternative that achieves these results," Schatz said.

A blow came last week when New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, in line to be the top Democrat in the Senate, announced his opposition. Obama's interviews were recorded before Schumer's announcement, but were released yesterday as the White House tried to keep the president's voice in the debate during the August lull.

In an interview with online news site Mic, Obama shifted his focus to young people, including some in Iran and Israel. Asked by a 22-year-old Iranian woman why he had to hurt her people with harsh economic penalties, Obama said his hand was forced because his outreach to Iran's supreme leader went unrequited while Iran was caught secretly enriching uranium. "Unfortunately, we didn't have a better way of doing this," Obama said.

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