One Democratic swing vote, Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware, said that he really wrestled with the input of Corker, who he called and talked to for almost an hour while in Ethiopia a few weeks ago, and Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer, a “very aggressive but very compelling” deal opponent. At the end of August, Coons was in his office until midnight writing a speech laying out his position and seriously considered delaying his announcement a few days until he received a signed letter from the president outlining seven different points just hours before greeting the cameras.
Weeks later, Coons is still grappling with his support of the pact, recalling conversations with those who have known him before politics, neighbors and friends who’ve invited him into their homes to have dinner with their families.
“Those are the folks who are really, really painful to disappoint,” he said. “Because they believe in me.”
But Coons, like many Democrats, supports the agreement because he believes there isn’t a better deal to strike.
"The key factual difference I think in all these discussions is can we use our unique role in the world banking system to force our allies back to the imposition of sanctions and back to the table,” he said. "We’re not.
"The uncertainty and the disruption caused by what would be a year or two of fighting with all of our key allies—while they would likely proceed with implementing the deal with Iran—would cause more harm and isolation to us than the alternative, which is going ahead with the deal, eyes wide open about its limitations, and really implementing it,” he added.
Republicans and a few top Democrats disagree. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said on the chamber floor Thursday that it would be “better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.”
"Democratic Senators just voted to filibuster and block the American people from even having a real vote on one of the most consequential foreign policy issues of our age," added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the vote.
While Schumer—the presumptive next Senate Democratic leader—was seen as an influential opponent of the administration, his opposition to the deal was ultimately shared by only three other Democratic senators. “If we walk away from this deal, we are doing so alone,” said Sen. Angus King of Maine, recalling an “extraordinary” meeting before the August recess with ambassadors from the other global powers.
If passed by a veto-proof majority in both chambers of Congress, the resolution would have barred the administration from lifting congressional sanctions, allowing Iran to back out of the agreement and claim Obama didn’t keep up to his end of the bargain. Republican leaders may bring up the vote again next week before a Sept. 17 deadline, but there is little reason to believe that the votes will change. About 1,000 members of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC were on the Hill Wednesday to oppose the agreement; they left, and on Thursday the grassroots contacted congressional offices, according to an AIPAC official.