House Republican Majority leader Kevin McCarthy says there’s a chance Congress can muster enough Democratic votes to override a presidential veto in support of the Iran nuclear deal.
“I’m basing that on what I hear from the other side of the aisle, from individual members who talk to me,” McCarthy, who is leading a visit of 36 GOP House members to Israel, said Tuesday in an interview in Jerusalem.
Obama has threatened to override Congress if it votes against the accord world powers reached with Iran last month. If the Republican majorities in Congress vote as a bloc against it, they will need 44 Democrats in the House of Representatives and 13 in the Senate to knock down the veto. At least seven House Democrats, including New York Representative Eliot Engel, and that state’s senior Democratic senator, Charles Schumer, have announced they will oppose the agreement.
“When you look at an Eliot Engel or a Schumer, they are leaders in their caucus, this is an issue they lead on when it comes to foreign policy,” said McCarthy, a California lawmaker. Obama’s remarks last week characterizing opponents of the Iran deal as preferring war to diplomacy show he is desperately “trying to focus mainly on just holding enough Democrats to beat a veto.”
Congress has until Sept. 17 to vote on the agreement.
The Republican representatives are visiting Israel on a trip sponsored by an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is leading the lobbying effort against the accord. The group, along with 22 House Democrats who came with Aipac last week, are being briefed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, including who contend the agreement paves the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. At least three of those Democrats expressed doubt about the deal.
The Obama administration argues that the accord is the best that could have been achieved to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran says its program is designed only for peaceful purposes.
If congressional Democrats “dug down and looked into their heart of hearts, they’d know this is a bad deal, Representative Barry Loudermilk of Georgia said in Jerusalem. ‘‘We’ve taken the lead in Georgia of trying to bring a couple, if not all four of our Democrats in the House there, and I’ve heard we have one already,” he added.
Arizona Representative Martha McSally, a former Air Force colonel and fighter pilot who served in the Middle East, said her military experience in the region enables her to “understand more deeply the destabilizing activities of Iran as a state-sponsor of terror” and how the agreement will “embolden” those efforts.
“I’m glad the Democrats were here last week,” McSally said, “hearing from the Israeli leadership, and the Israeli people, and bringing that back to their colleagues.”
For more, read this QuickTake: Iran’s Nuclear Program