No recess for Obama on Iran

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The White House and its allies are redoubling their efforts to win support for the Iran nuclear deal during President Obama’s two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

Obama’s vacation represents an opportunity of sorts for opponents, while the president largely stays out of public view.

{mosads}Over the timespan, opponents are blanketing TV airwaves with commercials attacking the deal as they seek to raise pressure on lawmakers to oppose it.

To counter that effort, Obama is expected to make additional calls to undecided lawmakers to urge them to support the deal during his vacation.

White House officials are also calling lawmakers over the five-week congressional recess.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), an undecided lawmaker who has been the target of heavy lobbying on both sides, told reporters that he doesn’t necessarily expect to speak with Obama personally during the break. 

“But I expect to hear from some other people in the White House,” Nadler said, while adding that he would also likely be in touch with opponents of the deal.

Nadler discussed lobbying on the deal shortly before the House went on recess two weeks ago, hours after he met with Obama for a private one-on-one meeting to talk about the agreement.

The House and Senate will vote in September on a resolution disapproving the deal, which would lift U.S. sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions on Tehran’s nuclear program.

If the disapproval measure is approved by Congress and overcomes an Obama veto — something that would require two-thirds majorities in both chambers — it would kill the deal.

Overriding a promised Obama veto is a long shot, but the administration is taking no chances.

Obama recorded interviews with CNN, NPR and Mic News that aired Sunday and Monday, allowing him to get his message out while on vacation.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz — the top two U.S. negotiators with Iran and the administration’s most active salesmen — convened a rare roundtable with reporters from regional newspapers on Monday to talk up the agreement. 

Three of those papers are New York publications, allowing top administration officials to rebut Sen. Charles Schumer’s argument against the deal to readers in his home state. Schumer, the only Senate Democrat to announce his opposition so far, has called on the administration to negotiate a better deal.

“It is absolutely mistaken for somebody to assert that, ‘Oh, we’ll get a better deal,’ ” Kerry said, according to The Buffalo News.

Opponents of the deal believe the recess is an opportunity. They argue the August break is muffling the White House’s sales pitch.

“For a campaign like this, in August, it’s a district-by-district focus, and the president can’t be in 40 districts at once, even if he was at home instead of Martha’s Vineyard,” said Omri Ceren, managing director at The Israel Project, which is opposed to the deal.

“It’s not so much that he’s off the field, but you’ve got to go where the lawmakers are.”

Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, the group created by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to oppose the deal, has reportedly spent more than $11 million on TV advertisements in recent weeks, warning that the agreement is a “bad deal.” 

On Monday, United Against Nuclear Iran, another organization that opposes the agreement, unveiled a new 30-second ad accusing the Obama administration of abandoning four Americans stuck in Iran. The ad will air on national and regional TV networks, the organization said. 

Separately, an organization of Iraq War veterans going by Veterans Against the Deal also began a national ad campaign this week. Videos featuring veterans who were “blown up by an Iranian bomb” are being run in the home states of on-the-fence Democrats including Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.). 

The August recess also provides a new venue for advocacy groups on both sides of the issue: town halls.

Liberal activists have made the Iran deal their No. 1 focus this month and have renewed their pressure to get supporters of the deal to lobby their members of Congress in person. Last week, groups including, Daily Kos and Credo launched a website with a list of upcoming events to steer their members to the right place.

Pro-deal activists say the effort is already paying off.

“So far what we’ve seen both in California and in Colorado over the last couple of days is many more supporters of the Iran deal coming to talk to their members than opponents,” MoveOn Washington Director Ben Wikler said last week, referring to two events in particular where backers of the deal overwhelmed opponents.

Critics of the agreement have also pledged to seize on town halls, meet-and-greets and other opportunities to get face time with members of Congress who may not have yet decided how they’ll vote.

“There are calls and e-mails to the office and calls personally from people who just want to know where I am,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — one of the few undecided Republicans — told The Arizona Republic

The frantic lobbying is a sign of the importance of the deal, which can be legacy-defining both for Obama and for individual members of Congress.

“The typical sanctity of August recess has been not something that anyone’s focusing on at the moment,” joked one congressional aide.

Tags Barack Obama Iran Iran nuclear deal

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