WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday earned sufficient congressional backing to ensure the Iran nuclear deal does not get blocked, when a veteran Democrat became the crucial 34th senator to back the controversial accord.
Most US lawmakers are opposed to the deal, which would ease punishing economic sanctions on Tehran while preventing it from advancing its nuclear program. Many Republicans warn that the Islamic republic will seek to cheat its way to an atomic bomb.
But with Senate Democrat Barbara Mikulski announcing her support Wednesday, the deal now has 34 backers in the 100-member Senate — the magic number needed to uphold a certain Obama veto should Congress pass a resolution that disapproves of the deal.
A vote in the House of Representatives is now set for next week, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said.
Overcoming a veto requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate and House.
While the deal is not perfect, Mikulski said, “I have concluded that this is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb.”
Some Republicans have urged walking away from the deal and renegotiating tougher terms with Tehran. But US negotiators have warned that such a move could see the fragile international coalition that secured the agreement fall apart.
“At best, sanctions would be porous, or limited to unilateral sanctions by the US,” said Mikulski, the longest-serving female senator in history.
The White House said it was “encouraged” that more than a third of Senators were in line.
“This strong support is a validation of the outreach that the president and his team have organized,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Republicans remain opposed
Republicans are unified in their opposition, warning that the deal leaves a civilian nuclear program intact, and that sanctions will provide Iran with a windfall of up to $150 billion, which they say could be funneled toward terrorist operations.
Almost all 17 Republi- can presidential hopefuls are openly opposed.
“I believe that the American people are going to look back on this and say this was the single worst thing this president’s ever done,” candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Fox News after Mikulski’s announcement.
“Every death that Iran causes is now on Barack Obama’s head.”