Iran Deal Nears Congress Debate as Obama Locks Up Enough Votes

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Obama Secures Iran Nuclear Support as Kerry Touts Deal

Both chambers of Congress plan to begin debate next week on a resolution disapproving the Iran nuclear deal as President Barack Obama locked up enough Senate votes to keep lawmakers from scuttling the deal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to fellow Democrats Wednesday that she learned from Speaker John Boehner that the chamber likely will begin considering the bill Sept. 9, about a week earlier than she expected. The Senate will also start debate next week, said Antonia Ferrier, an aide to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Obama gained the final Senate vote needed to protect the agreement Wednesday as Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski said she will support the accord.

Mikulski’s backing guarantees that if Congress votes to disapprove the deal this month and Obama vetoes that measure as he has said he will, the president will have the 34 Senate votes to keep Republicans from overriding his action. Congress returns from its summer break on Sept. 8.

Mikulski, who isn’t seeking re-election in 2016, said in a statement that the Iran agreement was “the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb.”

On Tuesday, announcements by Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania brought the president within one vote of the number he needed in the 100-member Senate.

Ease Sanctions

The deal would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on the country’s nuclear program. Obama has lobbied hard for Democratic support and has made pitches to U.S. Jewish leaders to counter opposition to the deal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Two Senate Democrats are joining Republicans in opposing the agreement, while 10 haven’t announced a position. If Obama can gather 41 Senate votes by getting most of those Democrats on board, they could block the Senate from voting on the agreement at all.

Secretary of State John Kerry, during a speech Wednesday in Philadelphia, sought to rebut critics of the deal who he said urge that the U.S. “puff out our chests and demand a better deal.”

“It is clear that if we reject this plan, the multilateral sanctions regime will start to unravel,” Kerry said. “The pressure on Iran will lessen and our negotiating leverage will diminish, if not disappear.”

‘Partisan Contest’

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, accused the Obama administration of reducing “this important national security matter to a partisan contest.”

“While the president will be out of office in 18 months, the rest of the country and the world will have to deal with the many predictable consequences of his deal with Iran,” McConnell said in a statement released Wednesday. He said the next president should revisit the deal.

Mikulski said that additional sanctions or military action “don’t present a more viable option to this deal.”

“The military option is always on the table for the United States,” she said. “We are not afraid to use it. But military action should be the last resort.”

She said Congress “must also reaffirm our commitment to the safety and security of Israel.”

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. Overriding Obama’s promised veto would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

Sustain Veto

Pelosi of California said she is “confident we will sustain the president’s veto in both houses of Congress.” Because the vote will be held earlier than expected, she urged House Democrats to announce support for the measure soon.

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 party member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and New Jersey’s Cory Booker.

The only uncertain Senate Republican vote is that of Susan Collins of Maine, who remains undecided and is expected to make her decision after Sept. 7.

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