Fourth-ranking Senate Democrat Patty Murray said she will back the nuclear accord with Iran, bringing President Barack Obama within five votes of the total needed to keep Congress from blocking the agreement.
“I am convinced that moving forward with this deal is the best chance we have at a strong diplomatic solution,” Murray said in a statement released Tuesday. “It puts us in a stronger position no matter what Iran chooses to do, and it keeps all of our options on the table if Iran doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.”
Murray said she had “frank conversations” with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the deal, while considering how to vote on the accord between six world powers and Iran.
“This is not a perfect deal, and there are several elements I would like to be stronger,” she said in the statement.
Murray’s endorsement means Obama needs to secure the votes of five more senators to sustain the veto he has promised if the Republican-controlled Congress passes a resolution disapproving of the deal next month. Obama used some of his vacation time over the past two weeks to make calls to lawmakers pressing them to support the agreement.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the president and other administration officials are talking with supporters of the deal as well as those who’ve expressed skepticism. He told reporters traveling with Obama on Air Force One Tuesday that the administration is “hoping we can build on the momentum we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks.”
Murray’s announcement gives the deal the backing of three of the top four Senate Democrats. The party’s leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, said two days ago he would support the accord. Weeks earlier, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said he would back it.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat and Reid’s likely successor, and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, are the only two members of their party in the Senate who have said they oppose the agreement.
As of Tuesday, 15 Senate Democrats hadn’t announced how they’ll vote. Those who have yet to disclose a position include Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It isn’t certain whether Obama will need to use his veto power on a resolution disapproving of the agreement. Senate Republicans need at least six members of the Democratic caucus to help provide the 60 votes necessary to advance the measure, and thus far only Schumer and Menendez have said they oppose the agreement.
The 435-seat House already has more than the 218 votes needed to pass a resolution of disapproval. At least 230 Republicans, and 13 of the 188 Democrats, are opposed to the deal. At least 67 of the chamber’s Democrats support the agreement, while the rest have yet to announce their position.
(An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix Reid’s title.)