- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

President Obama’s intense lobbying on Wednesday secured support from a 34th Senate Democrat, ensuring his Iranian nuclear deal will survive a veto battle with Congress and setting into motion the extraordinary imposition of a foreign agreement over the objections of large numbers of voters and big majorities in both the House and Senate.

Although Congress is poised to vote down the deal this month, the announcement by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland means the White House now has at least the bare minimum number of Senate Democrats needed to sustain a presidential veto. Opponents said it would prove a hollow victory for Mr. Obama, built entirely on support from his own party.

“The president is celebrating that he has secured less than 35 percent of the Senate to support the nuclear deal,” said Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican. “This deal is supported by a partisan minority in Congress while a bipartisan majority of Congress loudly disapproves, and I urge the president to abandon this deal.”


SEE ALSO: Nuclear deal will make war with Iran more likely, former top military officials say in report


“Forcing a bad deal, over the objections of the American people and a majority in Congress, is no win for President Obama,” said Cory Fritz, press secretary for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who added that Congress will still demand a big say in how the agreement with Tehran is implemented.

But with nearly all congressional Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers opposed to the accord, which aims to curb Iran’s nuclear programs in exchange for an easing of international sanctions, the White House showed no sign of easing off of its campaign to sell the agreement, with the goal of winning enough Senate Democrats to mount a filibuster and avoid a veto fight altogether.



“We are encouraged about the latest tally, but when the stakes are this high every vote is important,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “And there are still a number of members of Congress in both the House and the Senate that have not yet indicated that they’ll support the agreement.”

Republicans must muster 60 votes to head off a Senate filibuster, meaning they will need at least six Democrats to join them. But only two Senate Democrats have announced opposition to the deal — Charles E. Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — and several of the 10 undecided Democrats are reportedly leaning toward supporting Mr. Obama.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, appeared in televised interviews and delivered a major speech defending the deal that he and top diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia and China struck with Iran in July.

“To vote down this agreement is to solve nothing,” Mr. Kerry told an audience at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia as proponents of the accord took to social media touting Wednesday’s development as cause for celebration.

“Victory!!!!!! Veto proof majority secured!!!!” tweeted Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, which has been a leader among groups advocating for the deal.

Mr. Parsi also said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign after his “spectacular failure to kill the #IranDeal.”

Despite the numbers, opponents continued a spirited lobbying campaign in an attempt to sway lawmakers to vote against the deal.

A group of former top military officials and intelligence analysts released a report Wednesday warning that the deal would embolden Iran to boost support for anti-U.S. terrorist groups across the Middle East and launch a destabilizing regional arms race.

It will “enable Iran to increase support for terrorists and insurgent proxies, aggravate sectarian conflict and trigger both nuclear and conventional proliferation cascades,” said the report, compiled by the Iran Strategy Council, a group sponsored by the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

The deal, the study said, is not an alternative to war with Iran, as Mr. Obama has argued, but instead would make war more likely. Members of the group included retired Gen. James Conway, former commandant of the Marine Corps; retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of the United States European Command; retired Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, former commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in Europe/Africa; and retired Vice Adm. John Bird, former commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet.

Last week, 214 former high-level U.S. military officers signed a letter calling for congressional leaders to reject the deal on grounds that it “will enable Iran to become far more dangerous.”

Other opponents argue that the deal lacks safeguards to verify that Iran won’t violate the terms and use the deal as diplomatic cover to produce highly enriched uranium and develop nuclear weapons right under the noses of international inspectors enforcing the accord.

Mr. Kerry aggressively rejected such claims in his speech Wednesday.

“If Iran did decide to cheat, its technicians would have to come up with a complete and completely secret nuclear supply chain, a secret source of uranium, a secret milling facility, a secret conversion facility, a secret enrichment facility,” he said. “And our intelligence community and our Energy Department both agree Iran could never get away with such a deception.”

In announcing her support for the agreement, Ms. Mikulski acknowledged that “no deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime.”

But, she said, she had concluded that the deal “is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb.”

“For these reasons, I will vote in favor,” she added in a statement circulated a day after two other Democrats — Sens. Christopher A. Coons of Delaware and Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania — came out in support of the deal.

Staff writers Kellan Howell, Ben Wolfgang and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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