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Top House Democrat talks Iran deal during California visit

Top House Democrat talks Iran deal during California visit
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer speaks at a June press conference on the Export-Import Bank. (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call,Inc.)

A top house Democrat usually in charge of whipping votes for the minority party hasn't decided if he will support an agreement designed to curb Iran's nuclear program.

The comments from Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, came as he paid a visit to two California Democrats who happen to also be undecided on the proposed agreement facing Congress when lawmakers return from recess on Sept. 8.

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Hoyer acknowledged in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that pressure is on Democrats who haven't made up their mind.

That would include Reps. Pete Aguilar and Julia Brownley, along with Reps. Ted Lieu and Xavier Becerra, whose offices were met with demonstrations this week urging they back President Obama.

"The president is working it very hard, the administration is working it very hard. They feel very strongly that this is the best deal that we could get and that we are much better off if we approve this deal," Hoyer said.

"I think that is the administration's case, I think Nancy shares that view. I'm not sure I share that view."

That would be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, whose team has pointedly been distributing press releases when Democrats come out in favor of the deal. Hoyer said he had not discussed the effort to whip votes for the deal with Pelosi.

Hoyer added, "I don't agree with the administration that the alternative to approval of this agreement is war."

Brownley said she plans to have a stance on the deal before she returns to the Capitol in early September. She said she has talked to constituents and several local Jewish organizations since returning to her district for the August recess.

"There are very strong feelings on both sides of the issue without question," she said in an interview. "In my mind it feels as if there is generally a split feeling about it."

See the latest tally of the California delegation here.

Hoyer had been meeting with Brownley and a group of Southern California business executives at the Thousand Oaks campus of biotech giant Amgen Inc. to discuss his "Make It In America" economic platform to create domestic jobs.

Earlier in the day he toured University of Southern California's medical research labs. He is also scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Aguilar — a freshman — in Los Angeles on Friday.

The Iran deal did not come up during the meeting with business executives. Some in the group pressed Hoyer about simplifying the complex corporate tax code while others complained that FDA regulations on medical devices stifled innovation in the U.S.

Brownley touted a recent new federal grant to deepen Port Hueneme as well as a new squadron stationed at Naval Base Ventura this year to support the Triton Unmanned Arial Vehicle. Both developments will benefit the local economy, she said.

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