Hillary Clinton may have just thrown the Iran deal a huge lifeline

AP/Susan WalshDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on Tuesday.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly told Democrats on Tuesday that she strongly supports the president’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Indeed, according to one lawmaker who talked to Bloomberg, Clinton gave a “full-throated endorsement” of the compromise.

The fact that Clinton and President Barack Obama are unified on the issue could be crucial for the agreement to survive the Republican-controlled Congress. 

Once Congress receives the details of the deal, it will have 60 days to debate and vote on it.

If Congress sends a joint resolution of disapproval to Obama, it would trigger a new timeline. He would have 12 days to veto the resolution, something he promised he would do Tuesday morning. Then, Congress would have 10 days to vote to override his veto.

Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority of both chambers of Congress, so Obama would then need 34 allied senators to block the override. If both chambers vote to override, it would prevent Obama from suspending sanctions on Iran related to its nuclear program.

Some congressional Democrats are more hawkish on foreign policy matters than Obama, giving hope to Republicans crafting a bipartisan pushback against the landmark agreement. However, Democrats would likely have a harder time bucking both Obama and Clinton, who is their party’s front-runner in the 2016 presidential race.

“It’s EXTREMELY unlikely there will be enough” congressional Democrats willing to cross both party leaders, NBC News’ senior political editor, Mark Murray, wrote on Tuesday. 

AP081020021051AP/Alex BrandonThen-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton share a hug during the 2008 campaign.

Clinton’s previous foreign policy hawkishness, especially relative to Obama, also potentially gives her voice weight with sceptical congressional Democrats. Politico’s Michael Crowley recently documented many of Clinton’s past positions casting doubt on Tehran’s intentions.

“As the talks unfolded in 2014 and 2015, Clinton largely avoided commenting on specifics about the deal. But she did hint at a harder position than the one Obama wound up accepting,” Crowley wrote Tuesday. “Notably absent from Clinton’s rhetoric has been any hint that she sees Obama’s historic agreement as a possible first step toward restoring friendly relations between Washington and Tehran for the first time since the 1970s, a view held by some in Obama’s administration.”

On the other hand, it would have been difficult for Clinton to torpedo Obama’s Iran deal by publicly criticising it. As Obama’s former secretary of state, the president’s foreign-policy legacy is intertwined with her own. And Clinton previously voiced support for the framework of the agreement.

The agreement — struck early Tuesday morning by the US, Iran, and other world powers — aims to significantly curb Tehran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for a rollback of economic sanctions. At a Capitol Hill press conference later in the day, Clinton called it an “important step” in the ongoing effort to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

“I think that this is an important step that puts the lid on Iran’s nuclear programs.” she said. “All in all, I think that we have to look at this seriously, evaluate it carefully, but I believe based on what I know now that this is an important step.”

Additional reporting by Brett LoGiurato.

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