42 Senate Democrats Now Support Iran Deal; WH Suggests it Would Favor Filibuster

By Patrick Goodenough | September 8, 2015 | 9:01pm EDT
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The last five undecided Democratic senators delivered their verdicts on the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, and with four of them voicing support a filibuster of a Republican-led measure to disapprove the agreement is now a possibility.

Meanwhile, a new opinion poll found that support among Americans for the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has dropped to 21 percentage points, down from 33 points in July. Opposition rose to 49 percent, according to the Pew Research Center poll, with 30 percent of respondents undecided.

Tuesday’s statements of support for the JCPOA came from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said he would vote against it.

The administration in total has 42 Senate Democrats’ support for its controversial deal, and just four opponents – Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Manchin.

Congress has until September 17 to vote on a joint resolution of disapproval, but Senate Democratic leaders now have the numbers to block the measure from receiving a vote on the floor, if they decide to go that route.

The White House issued a statement of policy Tuesday formally stating that President Obama will veto the resolution if it lands on this desk, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested that the administration would like to see a filibuster instead.

“We certainly would expect those members of Congress who support the agreement to take the necessary steps in Congress to prevent Congress from undermining the agreement,” he told a briefing.

Asked whether the administration wanted Democrats to filibuster the resolution, Earnest said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as minority leader, had used the tactic numerous times to stymie aspects of Obama’s agenda. “It would be a little ironic” for him as majority leader to voice concerns about its use now, he said.

On the Senate floor, McConnell asked all senators to be in the chamber from Wednesday to debate the resolution of disapproval.

Recalling that legislation providing for Congress to review the nuclear deal – the so-called Corker-Cardin bill – had passed in the Senate 98-1, McConnell said, “I expect that every senator who voted for that measure is now entitled to an up-or-down vote – not a filibuster or artificial limits on passage, but an important vote on his resolution.”

“The Senate should not hide behind procedural obfuscation to shield the president or our individual views,” he said. “I call on every senator to resist attempts to obstruct a final vote and deny the American people and Congress the say they deserve on this extremely important matter.”

But Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said senators who voted for the Corker-Cardin legislation knew full well that a vote to approve or disapprove the agreement would require a 60-vote passage threshold.

“It was never any senator’s intention to forgo the 60-vote threshold,” he said. “Republicans are trying to pull a bait-and-switch that is born out of desperation. They haven’t had a good August, let’s face it.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding the latest in a series of hearings on the implications of the JCPOA this week.

On Wednesday, it will hear testimony from retired senior U.S. military commanders while the second hearing, on Friday, features non-proliferation and Iran experts.

Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called the JCPOA “fatally flawed,” and said the hearings would “discuss ways to lessen the fallout from this bad deal.”

Although JCPOA opponents appear to have lost the battle in Congress, a rally planned for Capitol Hill on Wednesday will hammer home their message that the agreement is bad for the U.S. and will not ultimately prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Donald Trump and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore are scheduled to speak at the event on the west lawn of the Capitol. Other billed participants include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, conservative commentators and experts, and several Republican lawmakers.  

Also on Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak at the Brookings Institution, in support of the Iran agreement.

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