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Obama hits 41, cements Iran victory

Obama hits 41, cements Iran victory

President Obama cleared a significant political hurdle Tuesday when several undecided Democrats came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, giving him enough votes to block a Senate resolution of disapproval.

Three of the five remaining swing votes, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (Ore.), announced their support for the accord in a flurry of near-simultaneous press releases on Tuesday morning, increasing the number of pro-deal Democrats to 41.

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The senators released their statements of support after Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Susan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-W.Va.), became the fourth member of his caucus to announce his opposition to the deal. Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives MORE (Wash.), the last undecided Senate Democrat, announced her support for the measure late Tuesday, becoming the 42nd vote against the resolution of disapproval.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Harry Reid: Biden should give GOP three weeks to see if they will work with him MORE (Nev.) now has the votes to support a filibuster blocking a Republican-backed resolution to disapprove the deal, which would lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. He predicted the deal would survive congressional scrutiny, citing support from an “overwhelming majority” of his caucus.

“This agreement will stand. America will uphold its commitment, and we will seize this opportunity to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Reid said in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Obama had already secured enough votes to sustain a veto of the resolution, but Tuesday’s developments gave him an important political victory.

After months of debate — including Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s denunciation of Obama’s talks with Iran in an address to Congress — the Iran deal’s opponents lack the votes to get the motion of disapproval out of the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote Democrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) still hopes to score political points by casting Democrats as avoiding a vote on the substance of the deal.

He argued the deal should get an up-or-down vote, warning Democrats against hiding behind a filibuster, which would require 60 votes to overcome.

“I expect that every senator who voted for that measure is now entitled to an up-or-down vote — not a filibuster or artificial limits on passage, but an important vote — on this resolution,” McConnell said. “The Senate should not hide behind procedural obfuscation to shield the president or our individual views.”

Reid has pressed McConnell to allow an up-or-down Senate vote that would require the Iran resolution to win 60 votes for passage, something he said has become common.

“Everything of importance in the Senate requires 60 votes. So passage will require 60 votes,” he said.

The dueling comments on the Senate floor suggested no deal is in the works and that McConnell will force Democrats to filibuster to avoid an Obama veto.

“Reid is looking for a way not to go through a cloture vote because he’s doesn’t want to filibuster the Iran deal. We don’t want to make it easier for Democrats to defeat [the disapproval resolution,]” said Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman.

Only four Senate Democrats have announced their opposition to the agreement: Sens. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (N.Y.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' MORE (N.J.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Pelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out MORE (Md.) and Manchin.

Senate Republican aides, however, question whether all 42 Democrats would vote to end the filibuster. They pointed to centrist Sens. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-Del.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference Intel officials say Iran, Russia seeking to influence election Senate Intel leaders warn of election systems threats MORE (D-Va.) as possible allies on the procedural motion.

Coons said earlier this month “it would be really regrettable” if lawmakers did not have a chance to vote on the resolution of disapproval directly because of a filibuster.

He declined Tuesday to reveal his stance on the procedural question and instead voiced hope that Reid and McConnell would reach an agreement.

“Sen. Coons hopes that it will proceed in such a way that the Senate has ample opportunity to conclude debate on this important deal and allow each senator to make their individual position clear,” said spokesman Sean Coit.

A Senate Democratic aide said Warner would discuss the floor procedure with colleagues at a lunch meeting Wednesday.

“He’s going to wait and see how it goes in caucus tomorrow before he makes a decision,” the aide said.

Republicans may seek to add political pain to the vote by scheduling it for Friday — the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Ironic that Congress may vote on Iran nuke deal on 9/11,” Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump leads Biden in Texas by 4 points: poll President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Dallas Morning News poll shows Biden leading Trump in Texas MORE (R-Texas) tweeted.

House Republican leaders plan to vote on their own disapproval resolution this week.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) wants to delay the vote, arguing the 60-day congressional review period mandated by law is not in effect because the administration failed to deliver paperwork needed to trigger the clock.

Roskam, who serves as co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, wants to force a floor vote this week that would cancel the House vote on the deal unless the White House releases the text of the “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding nuclear inspections.

Senate GOP aides, however, dismissed the prospect of delaying a vote in the upper chamber.

The votes on the Iran deal followed an intense month of lobbying in August. Groups opposed to the deal blanketed television airwaves with advertisements warning the agreement would not stem Iran’s support for terrorism.

Supporters of the deal argued that other trading partners would not reinstate sanctions and that the deal was the best way to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, after a rare invitation from Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Ohio), appeared to backfire. The vote quickly became a partisan issue, and many Democrats were offended by Netanyahu’s comments, which came amid his own reelection bid.

Still, the last few Democrats who announced their support for the deal on Tuesday suggested it was not an easy decision.

Peters argued that it was not realistic to expect the United States and its five partner nations to negotiate a stronger accord.

“Despite my serious concerns with this agreement, I have unfortunately become convinced that we are faced with no viable alternative,” the freshman senator said in a statement. “I have met with representatives for each of our negotiating partners, whom have all stated that they will not return to the negotiating table if Congress rejects this deal.”


Cristina Marcos contributed. 

This story was updated at 6:09 p.m.