The Republican-controlled Congress apparently won't be able to vote down the Obama administration’s legacy-defining Iran nuclear deal, as four more Democratic senators announced their support Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Gary Peters of Michigan brought those in favor of the deal to 41 senators. And Tuesday evening, Sen. Maria Cantwell said she would also back it, bringing the total to 42. That's just enough to block a resolution of disapproval, which is expected to be voted upon with a 60-vote threshold—either to invoke cloture or to pass the measure—in the next week or so, maybe even on Sept. 11, a date that Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn tweeted would be “ironic.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invited every senator to come to the chamber floor to debate the deal Wednesday afternoon.
The administration had already reached enough congressional support to override a potential veto and implement the deal, which limits the Iran nuclear program for at least a decade in return for granting sanctions relief worth billions of dollars. A resolution of disapproval would imperil the deal by barring the administration from lifting congressional sanctions. It also would, according to deal opponents such as the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, scare off investors interested in Iran.
Wyden, Blumenthal, and Peters were hardly enthusiastic in their support.
“This agreement with the duplicitous and untrustworthy Iranian regime falls short of what I had envisioned,” said Wyden in a statement. “However, I have decided the alternatives are even more dangerous.”
“Despite my serious concerns with this agreement, I have unfortunately become convinced that we are faced with no viable alternative,” said Peters.
“While this is not the agreement I would have accepted at the negotiating table, it is better than no deal at all,” added Blumenthal.
The question now isn’t whether the deal goes through, but how. White House press secretary Josh Earnest implied Tuesday that the president expects Democrats to filibuster the disapproval resolution, although it isn’t yet clear if that will occur.
“We certainly would expect that those members of Congress who support the agreement to take the necessary steps in Congress to prevent Congress from undermining the agreement,” he said.
On Tuesday, McConnell said that after the Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to review the bill—by a 98 to 1 vote—the disapproval resolution should get an up-or-down vote, which typically only needs a simple majority.
“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,” said McConnell, who criticized the deal for leaving Iran with "a threshold nuclear capability recognized as legitimate by the international community."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reiterated his support for the deal Tuesday in a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reminding the audience that Democrats had “agreed to forgo our opportunity to filibuster” but that passage would require 60 votes.
“It is clear to me and to the overwhelming majority of my caucus that this agreement gives us the best chance to avoid one of the worst threats in today’s world—a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said. “In fact, I believe this agreement is not just our best chance to avert what we fear most—I fear it is our last best chance to do so.”