Done deal, as 41 senators back Iran nuclear agreement

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images/JTA
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Vice President Joe Biden in 2014.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images/JTA

The nuclear agreement with Iran will likely survive the Senate, as President Barack Obama on Tuesday garnered the final votes he needed to block a vote on a resolution of disapproval.

In quick succession, three Democratic senators — Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), both Jewish, and Gary Peters (Mich.) — announced they would vote in favor of the deal, giving Obama the 41 votes he needed to deny Republicans the opportunity to reject the deal.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jewish lawmakers Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in opposing the deal. All 54 Senate Republicans pledged to reject the deal. As of press time, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) remained undecided.

Update: Late Tuesday, Cantwell came out in favor of the deal, bringing the total number of Senators supporting the deal to 42.

Last week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) provided the 34th vote the president needed to sustain his promised veto of any resolution rejecting the deal.

Speaking Tuesday morning at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “I am gratified to say this agreement with Iran will stand. America will seize this opportunity to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Although Senate Democrats have the numbers to filibuster, Reid offered to go straight to a vote.
“I hope we can avoid the usual and unnecessary procedural hurdles. Democrats have already agreed to forgo our opportunity to filibuster, and I’ve offered Leader McConnell the chance to go straight to a vote on passage of the resolution,” said Reid.

“But of course, as [McConnell] has noted many times in the past, everything of importance in the Senate requires 60 votes. So passage will require 60 votes.”

Joel Rubin, president of Washington Strategy Group and former deputy assistant secretary of state for House Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs, said he would “prefer to see a situation where Republicans have to justify why they should be voting against this deal and not about why Democrats are blocking a final passage vote.”

Greg Rosenbaum, chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council, conceded that if Democrats do filibuster in the Senate, such a move will give opponents of the deal fodder; however, he said, “I think the political consequences of preventing cloture are far less than the consequences of voting against
the deal.”

He was impressed by the way the vote count swung in the president’s favor before the end of the Congressional recess. Rosenbaum attributed the success to the White House’s “deliberate attempts over the last three weeks to provide, in an increasingly formal way, reassurance” to members of Congress and American Jews that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated between world powers and Iran was the best way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Despite millions of dollars spent protesting the deal, Rosenbaum added, opponents seemed to be playing defense during the August recess.

The fight, opponents maintain, is not over until every vote is cast. Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, a group backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, sent an urgent notice to supporters Tuesday morning, urging them to call their members of Congress. Rallies and vigils against the deal were scheduled earlier this week.

Republicans in the House are unified against the deal. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called for a vote on the deal this week, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicting the vote would be concluded by Friday. By Tuesday morning, 119 members of the House had declared themselves for the deal, including recent announcements by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

Wasserman Schultz made her announcement in the days following Vice President Joe Biden’s Sept. 3 visit to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in South Florida. At a DNC meeting earlier this summer, Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish, was accused of blocking a resolution of support of the Iran deal. Wasserman Schultz denied the accusation.

A source familiar with the DNC proceedings said, “There was no Iran Deal resolution submitted before the required deadline. A few DNC members discussed submitting a resolution, but because of the missed deadline, they circulated something called a ‘letter of support’ — it doesn’t come up for a vote, it doesn’t get included in the party platform, it’s mainly a symbolic effort.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), the lone Jewish Republican in Congress, who has actively called for the release of the side deals between the IAEA and Iran, said it would be a “horrible move tactically and strategically” for Senate Democrats to block a vote of the deal.

“Quite frankly,” he said, “it’s obvious they are choosing party loyalty over national security and none of them should be re-elected.”

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  1. Rep Zeldin is out of line making that sort of arrogant, extreme statement. Shame on him for in effect calling opponents unpatriotic. This deal is a close call in either direction, and consequences of Yes or No vote are both uncertain. No one knows for sure if national security would be better served either way.


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