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 WydenHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Dem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Dems introduce bill to take gender-specific terms out of tax code to make it LGBT-inclusive 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) ManchinSenate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Senate poised to confirm Trump’s attorney general pick MORE (D-W.Va.), became the fourth member of his caucus to announce his opposition to the deal. Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate votes to extend key funding mechanism for parks White House poised to take action on AI, 5G Overnight Energy: States press Trump on pollution rules | EPA puts climate skeptic on science board | Senate tees up vote on federal lands bill 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 ReidConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment Dems wary of killing off filibuster 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 McConnellGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season Trump: McConnell should keep Senate in session until nominees are approved 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (N.Y.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (N.J.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Baseball legend Frank Robinson, first black manager in MLB, dies at 83 Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report 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 CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union MORE (D-Del.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs 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 CornynOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week 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 BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks 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.