President Barack Obama’s administration scored a significant trio of victories Tuesday by securing support for the Iranian nuclear deal from a key group of Democratic senators.
On Tuesday, a trio of Democratic senators — Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Barbara Boxer (D-California), and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) — announced their support for the deal, which was struck last month between Iran and six world powers, including the US.
It means that Obama may soon have the votes in the Senate to ensure that Congress won’t disrupt the deal.
“In this deal, America has honored its best traditions and shown that patient diplomacy can achieve what isolation and hostility cannot. For this reason, I will support it,” Kaine said in a speech on the Senate floor.
“If we walk away from this deal, Iran would have no constraints on its nuclear program and the international sanctions that helped bring the Iranians to the table would collapse,” Boxer said in a statement. “The strong support from the international community — including the announcement this week by the Gulf states — underscores how this deal is the only viable alternative to war with Iran.”
Congress has until Sept. 17 to weigh in on the deal, either by approving it or by passing a resolution of disapproval. But if Congress votes to reject the deal, Obama has promised a veto. Republicans, who remain almost universally opposed to the deal, would then need the support of at least 13 Democratic senators and 44 members of the House to overcome a presidential veto veto.
That’s looking less and less likely by the day, as more Democrats slowly come out in favour of the deal. The support from Nelson and Kaine was especially important, since they had supported a bill initially opposed by Obama that gave Congress increased oversight over the agreement.
Some Democrats have been torn over whether to support the agreement, amid persistent campaigns opposing the deal from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some influential groups.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the future Democratic majority leader, has received tens of thousands of phone calls urging him to vote against the deal, and is reportedly leaning against supporting it. Several other high-profile Democratic senators with strong ties to Israel have also not indicated publicly how they will vote on the deal.
Boxer acknowledged that the security of Israel was an important factor in her decision, but it was outweighed by the inspection measures that the deal puts in place for monitoring Iran’s reactors.
“I understand and share Israel’s mistrust of Iran, and that is exactly why we need this agreement — which is not based on trust, but on an unprecedented inspection and verification regime,” Boxer said. “A deal by definition is never perfect, but as Ami Ayalon, the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, said recently, ‘When it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this is the best option.'”
Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to the bill because many lawmakers believe that it does not do enough to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
At an event in New York in July, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) warned that the deal could lead to another 9/11 style attack on New York City.
Last month, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) referenced the Holocaust in his condemnation of the agreement, saying that the deal was going to “take Israelis and walk them to the door of the oven.”
Despite intense rhetoric on the Republican side amid an increasingly heated presidential campaign, the politics of the deal remain somewhat murky. It’s unclear whether Americans actually support the deal or not, though it is becoming increasingly apparent that few are paying close attention.
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