Obama Only Needs One More Vote to Secure the Iran Deal

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Debt Limit
From left, Senators Bob Casey, Chuck Schumer, and Amy Klobuchar, at a press conference on September 18, 2013.Photo: Tom Williams/© 2013 CQ Roll Call

Critics of the Iran deal planned to use the August recess to convince members of Congress to vote against the agreement, but despite an intense lobbying effort by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, it’s increasingly apparent that President Obama will have the votes to sustain his veto, should Congress override the deal. On Tuesday, Democratic senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware announced that they intend to oppose a Republican bill rejecting the measure, bringing the number of senators supporting the agreement to 33. That means the White House is just one vote short of ensuring that Congress can’t block the deal.

Casey and Coons said they agonized over the decision, and offered lengthy explanations for their stance. Coons, who is on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a speech at the University of Delaware that this is “not the agreement I had hoped for,” and he’s concerned that the nations invovled have “different interpretations of key terms” in the deal.  But he said after talking with numerous White House officials, including his political mentor, Vice-President Joe Biden, he’s concluded that this is the “most credible opportunity to lead a global community in containing an existential threat while preserving America’s ability to use economic power and military might to successfully dismantle a nuclear program should diplomacy fail.”

In a 17-page memo, Casey called the deal “the best option available to us at this time,” and said the U.S. had little choice since the other five nations involved in the deal are prepared to move forward. “They made it very clear that maintaining sanctions and renegotiating wasn’t going to work, and part of that was just the practical reality,” he wrote. “To have led that effort and then to just say, ‘We’re going to walk away,’ it just doesn’t make sense.”

Securing one more vote shouldn’t be difficult for the White House. Only two Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez, have said they intend to vote against the deal. The disapproval measure is expected to pass in the House, but congressional Democrats hope that in addition to stopping an override, they can gather 41 votes to prevent the measure from going to Obama’s desk in the first place.