The debate over the historic nuclear deal among Iran, the US, and five other world powers now shifts to the US domestic front.
After it receives the details of the deal, Congress has 60 days to approve or disapprove of it.
It’s expected to be controversial, with congressional Republicans already promising to kill the deal. And its fate likely rests in the hands of a key few Democratic lawmakers, whose support or opposition will be critical. Most of these lawmakers have been publicly sceptical of the deal.
As Politico notes, opponents of the nuclear deal appear to have the votes to keep sanctions against Iran in place, defying a vital part of the agreement. This will almost certainly to draw a veto from Obama. Congress could also send a joint resolution of disapproval to the president’s desk — something that would also prompt a veto.
That’s where the real battle will begin.
Opponents of the deal are rallying support to overturn an Obama veto — but to do so, they need a plethora of Democratic votes. A lockstep Republican vote would need 13 Senators and 44 House Democrats to jump ship in order to overcome a potential Obama veto. And as New York Times reports, the Obama administration is lobbying party members hard in order to convince Dems to stay on board.
Here are the lawmakers who are likely to decide the fate of the Iran nuclear deal:
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York)
In a rare move, Schumer broke with Obama earlier this year and advocated for a bill to authorise Congress to have a final say in approving the deal. At the time, the bill was seen as a proxy move that would essentially doom a future Iran agreement.
Schumer has been reluctant to come out in favour of the the nuclear deal, partially due to his strong advocacy for Israel, which has criticised the nuclear deal.
As the future leader of the party in the Senate, if Schumer decides to vote against the president, he could bring other Democrats with him, or at least pave the way for other Democrats to break with the party.
At this point, Schumer isn’t revealing how he will vote. The National Journal reports that the Senator canceled a press conference on Tuesday morning, possibly out of concern that he’d be peppered with questions about his stance on the deal.
Later on Tuesday, Schumer released a statement saying that he would carefully examine the deal.
“Supporting or opposing this agreement is not a decision to be made lightly, and I plan to carefully study the agreement before making an informed decision,” Schumer said in the statement, adding that he’d be going through the deal with a “fine-tooth comb.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey)
Menendez, who has some of the strongest ties within the Democratic Party to Israel, has repeatedly voiced his scepticism about the deal.
Appearing on MSNBC on Tuesday shortly after the agreement was released, the former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that the deal does not appear to go far enough to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“The deal ultimately legitimises Iran as a threshold nuclear state,” Menendez told MSNBC. “The deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program — it preserves it.”
Menendez listed several of his issues with the deal, including nuclear inspection rules and hindrances in confronting potential future Iranian violations. He also said that he worried that the deal would spur Iran’s economy, and make the country a more difficult enemy to face if the US ultimately ends up in a military conflict with Iran.
But Menendez didn’t rule out supporting the deal, telling MSNBC that he will weigh whether it is the best deal that is available.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland)
Cardin, the new ranking Democratic on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped broker a bipartisan agreement earlier this year to give Congress 60 days to review the nuclear deal. He was a key liaison between the Obama administration and members of the Senate during the negotiation, and he’s considered another Democratic bellwether vote.
According to The New York Times, Cardin hasn’t made up his mind yet, and is committed to carefully examining the deal while Congress is in session, before taking the details back to his state during the August recess. In a statement on Tuesday, Cardin said Congress had a responsibility to “vigorously and judiciously” review the agreement.
The National Journal reports that groups opposed to the Iran deal have already been running negative ads about Cardin in Maryland, attempting to push him closer to voting against the deal.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware)
The White House lobbied hard for Coons’ support for the April bill, and will likely repeat the effort this time around.
As The News Journal points out, Coons, a key Democrat on the the Foreign Relations Committee, co-sponsored a bill over the objections of the Obama administration earlier this year to impose sanctions on Iran if the negotiations didn’t yield results by June 30.
“I will only support it if this deal prevents every Iranian pathway to develop a nuclear weapons capability,” Coons said in a statement on Tuesday.
Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California)
Pelosi has a different problem: corralling lawmakers.
Bloomberg reports that Pelosi has already begun whipping lawmakers to see where the party stands when Republicans attempt to override Obama’s likely veto. Pelosi has been reportedly meeting with sceptical Democrats in the hopes of convincing them that the deal is a smart move that won’t allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Pelosi has to convince her members not to break ranks in order to keep the House from voting to override a veto. That means ensuring that at least 44 Democratic members don’t jump ship.
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