POLITICS

These Wobbly Democrats Could Stop The Anti-Iran Deal Bill In Its Tracks

Now that Democrats have 34 votes, could they get 41?

WASHINGTON -- Back in early August, before Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) even announced his own position on the Iran deal, he speculated that there may end up being enough votes in the Senate to block the GOP effort to kill the deal before it even made it to the president's desk.

Republicans in Congress could pass an initial resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal, which lifts sanctions on the country in return for Iran dismantling its nuclear infrastructure and agreeing to nuclear inspections. If the anti-deal bill passed, President Barack Obama would veto it. The conventional wisdom in Washington was that the best Democrats could do in that scenario was secure 34 votes, the number needed to sustain a presidential veto. But now that 34 Democrats have come forward, the notion that deal-supporters could muster 41 -- the number needed to filibuster and stop a bill in the Senate -- is no longer far-fetched.

Stopping the disapproval resolution in the Senate would save Obama -- and, not incidentally, the United States -- from the global embarrassment of congressional disapproval, however meaningless legally, of the deal.

Here are the fence-sitting Democrats who could stop the GOP push cold in the Senate. A full list of Democrats who have announced their support for the deal can be found at the end of this article.

VERY LIKELY YES, BUT NOT OFFICIALLY SO (1)

Joe Manchin (W.Va.) @Sen_JoeManchin

The red-state Democrat has said he is leaning towards backing the agreement. "Everybody says there is a better deal," he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in late July. "What options are on the table or even basically discussed I could consider voting for?

"I'm leaning very strongly to saying, OK, let's try going along with the P5+1,” he continued, referring to the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, which collectively negotiated the deal with Iran.

Manchin backed two rounds of sanctions legislation in the past two years that were opposed by the Obama administration, which claimed that the timing of the sanctions could upend the negotiations with Iran. However, the senator eventually withdrew his support for one of the bills, citing a desire to give the negotiators a chance to succeed.  

ON THE FENCE, BUT BEING LOBBIED HEAVILY (5)

Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) @SenBlumenthal
Blumenthal was an original co-sponsor of the two consecutive efforts to pass additional sanctions in the midst of negotiations. However, his July 14 reaction to the deal was neutral: "I welcome the announcement of an agreement with Iran after a long and difficult diplomatic road,” he said. "While our common hope may be that diplomacy has succeeded in barring an Iranian path to nuclear weapons capability, Congress must apply exacting standards and strict scrutiny, especially given Iran’s history of deceit and international law violations."

Maria Cantwell (Wash.) @SenatorCantwell
“It’s a really busy time around here and people are trying to do other things,” Cantwell told Politico shortly before the August recess. “And so if you don’t have to decide in the next two days, then people will take their time.” Cantwell has given no other public indication of how she’ll vote.

Gary Peters (Mich.) @Peters4Michigan

 Peters has not yet issued a statement on the Iran deal, but was a co-sponsor on the most recent sanctions legislation. As the lone freshman Democrat, Peters is unlikely to make waves by breaking with a president of his party on the cornerstone of the administration's foreign policy agenda.

Ron Wyden (Ore.) @RonWyden

“I said all along I was skeptical that Iran’s leaders would agree to dismantle their nuclear weapons program and I have questions about whether this agreement accomplishes that, particularly in light of Iran’s history on this issue," Wyden said on July 14. "However, I will use my seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee to thoroughly review the details."

Wyden, who is Jewish, is up for re-election in 2016 and has been a top recipient of funding from pro-Israel groups, the most powerful of which oppose the Iran deal. However, Wyden abided by the Obama administration’s requests to hold off on new sanctions.

DEFINITELY NO (3)

Ben Cardin (Md.) @SenatorCardin 

Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said Friday he will oppose the deal. He reasoned that after 10 to 15 years, the deal would "leave Iran with the option to produce enough enriched fuel for a nuclear weapon in a short time." 

Bob Menendez (N.J.) @SenatorMenendez
A known Iran hawk and the author of nearly every piece of recent sanctions legislation against Iran, Menendez announced Tuesday that he would not support the Iran deal. He also slammed the agreement in his initial statement: “I’m concerned the redlines we drew have turned into green-lights; that Iran will be required only to limit rather than eliminate its nuclear program, while the international community will be required to lift the sanctions, and that it doesn’t provide for anytime-any-place inspections of suspected sites. The bottom line is: The deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program – it preserves it.” 

Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) @SenSchumer
The incoming Senate Democratic leader was the first member of his party in the Senate to officially come out against the deal. “I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power,” Schumer wrote in a statement.

While this position did not come as a surprise, it was met with harsh rebuke by progressive Democratic groups, who have vowed to withhold funding from Schumer and other Democrats who oppose the nuclear agreement.    

The senators who have publicly pledged to back the Iran nuclear agreement are: Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). 

This is a developing story and will be updated if more senators announce their support.

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