Obama Gains 41 U.S. Senate Votes to Uphold Iran Nuclear Deal

U.S. President Barack Obama looks on during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House September 4, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama gained 41 U.S Senate votes in favor of the Iran nuclear agreement, enough to block the Senate from passing a Republican-backed resolution to disapprove the deal.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon said Tuesday they will support the deal. Thirty-eight members of the Democratic caucus previously announced their backing.

That would leave Republicans short of the 60 votes needed to force a Senate vote, unless some members who support the Iran deal argue that the chamber should have a chance to vote on it. The legislation permitting an up-or-down vote was agreed to by Obama after weeks of bipartisan pressure for Congress to have a say.

“I believe the proposed agreement, using diplomacy, not military force, is the best path now available to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran,” Blumenthal said in a statement.

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.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said Tuesday he will insist that 60 Senate votes are required to pass a resolution of disapproval.

“There is no precedent in recent history for an issue of this magnitude getting consideration in the Senate without having to secure 60 votes,” Reid said during a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

‘Serious Reservations’

Peters said in a statement, “Despite my serious reservations, I will reluctantly vote against a motion of disapproval because I believe that doing so will protect the credibility of the United States to hold Iran accountable to adhere to every single obligation” in the agreement.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he opposes the agreement.

“I do not believe that supporting this deal will prevent Iran from eventually acquiring a nuclear weapon or continuing to be a leading sponsor of terrorism against Americans and our allies around the world,” Manchin said. He is the fourth senate Democrat to oppose the deal.

The other Senate Democrats opposing the deal are Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Bob Menendez of New Jersey. In July, Manchin had said he was leaning toward supporting the measure.

‘Hardly’ the End

“This vote will hardly be the end of the Senate’s consideration of Iranian malfeasance and responding to the ongoing threats posed by Iran’s leaders will require people to move on after this debate and come together again with common purpose,” said Wyden. “With that in mind, I will vote to support the agreement.”

Obama’s 41 votes will ultimately protect the Iran deal, seven more than needed to uphold his veto of any measure of disapproval passed by Congress.

One other Senate Democrat, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Republican Susan Collins of Maine haven’t yet announced their positions.

The Senate plans to begin debate Tuesday afternoon on the nuclear agreement. The House is set to start debating the measure Wednesday, and votes in both chambers must be held by a Sept. 17 deadline.

Regarding Manchin’s decision to oppose the deal, Reid said, “Everybody has a right to their own decision.” The minority leader added, “He’s flopped around on this a few times. At least now we know where he’s at.”

Asked whether he had a gut feeling on whether he could rally the votes to block a resolution of disapproval, Reid said, “I don’t have a gut feeling.”

The 435-seat House has more than the 218 votes needed to pass a resolution of disapproval in that chamber.

At least 230 Republicans and 15 Democrats are opposed to the deal. At least 105 of the chamber’s Democrats support the agreement, while the rest have yet to announce their position.

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