President Barack Obama needs only two more U.S. Senate votes to protect the Iran nuclear deal in Congress as Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who has split with Obama on Iran sanctions, said he will support the agreement.
“I believe it is the best option available to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Casey, who earlier this year backed Iran sanctions legislation opposed by the White House, said in a statement Tuesday.
Casey’s support brings to 32 the number of senators publicly favoring the deal, which would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on the country’s nuclear program. Obama would need 34 Senate votes to sustain the veto he promised if the Republican-led Congress passes a resolution disapproving the deal.
He said the agreement “places strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, requires robust monitoring and verification measures, and grants relief only from nuclear sanctions in exchange for verified actions on Iran’s part.”
Two Senate Democrats oppose the agreement and 12 have yet to declare their position. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is scheduled to announce his decision later Tuesday at the University of Delaware. If Obama can assemble 41 Senate votes by getting most of the remaining Democrats on board, Senate Democrats could block a disapproval vote on the agreement.
“I have been among the strongest supporters of the tough sanctions against Iran, which brought the regime to the negotiating table,” Casey said in his statement. “I will continue to advance legislative efforts that prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, exporting terrorism in the region, and committing human rights atrocities at home.”
The Republican-led Congress has until the end of the day Sept. 17 to pass a resolution disapproving the deal reached in July between six world powers and Iran.
Obama and top administration officials have been prodding Democratic lawmakers by phone and in person to endorse the accord. They’ve also made pitches to U.S. Jewish leaders to counter lobbying by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies urging Congress to block the agreement.
While Republicans have been united in opposing the agreement, only Senate Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey have joined them so far.
Among the Democrats yet to disclose a position are Maryland’s Ben Cardin, the top member of his party on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and New Jersey’s Cory Booker.
While the Republican-led House of Representatives has enough votes to pass a resolution rejecting the deal, it’s unclear whether the Senate does. Assuming all 54 Senate Republicans oppose the accord, they would need support from four more Democrats in addition to Schumer and Menendez to get the 60 votes necessary to advance a resolution.