(CNSNews.com) – The Republican lawmaker sponsoring a resolution to disapprove the administration’s Iran nuclear agreement said at the weekend it was a “deeply flawed” deal that “makes the world less safe.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) used the weekly Republican address to underline opponents’ problems with the negotiated agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“Well, President Obama is betting that Iran will change over a few short years into a country that can be trusted with nuclear bomb-making technology,” Royce said. “He is betting against history.”
“So many in the Senate and the House – from both parties – have decided that we can’t make this bet,” he added.
Among concerns he raised about the agreement were its sunset provisions; an inspection regime that includes a 24-day notice period for access to undeclared, suspicious sites; claims that at one site where key nuclear weapons work is suspected to have taken place, Iran will be able to collect its own samples for the U.N. nuclear watchdog; worries that other countries in the region would seek nuclear programs; an agreement to lift (after eight years) international sanctions targeting Iran’s missile program; and concerns that Iran will use funding released under the deal to boost support for terrorism.
“Iran doesn’t behave like the peaceful countries that have nuclear programs,” Royce said. “Why does this agreement treat it like one?”
Despite those words, however, with a fortnight to go before Congress is expected to vote on the measure, the number of Senate Democrats ready to vote “no” has grown to just three short of the required target to sustain a presidential veto.
As two more Democrats – Sens. Thomas Carper of Delaware and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – moved at the weekend from undeclared into the column of supporters of the JCPOA, a defeat for the deal’s opponents looked all but assured.
They take to 31 the number of Democratic senators supportive of the agreement negotiated between Iran and six world powers – three shy of the 34 needed to sustain the veto which the White House has already pledged, should the resolution of disapproval pass.
With all Senate Republicans expected to vote in favor of the disapproval measure, the three “no” votes still needed by JCPOA supporters could come from any of the 13 Democrats yet to declare their position. They are Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Robert Casey (Pa.), Christopher Coons (Dela.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.)
In recent days attention has turned to the possibility that JCPOA supporters could aim for a more ambitious target than the 34 votes: Forty-one Democratic senators could prevent an up-and-down vote altogether, thus saving President Obama from having to veto a measure disapproving arguably his most substantial foreign policy achievement to date.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) – who sponsored the original legislation allowing Congress to review and vote on the JCPOA – said last week it was “stunning” that Senate Democratic leaders could be considering the filibuster option.
Noting that the Iran review legislation had passed with the support of every senator bar one, Corker told the Associated Press that for Democrats “to turn right around and filibuster it to me is very inconsistent and I think would be confusing to the people they represent.”
The sole no vote for the Corker legislation came from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who said Obama should not be given “any grounds to claim that Congress blessed his nuclear deal.”