That recess saw major campaigns on both sides of the issues, which reached a major turning point just hours before the voting schedule was announced, when Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski became the 34th Democrat to declare her intention to vote against a resolution of disapproval, thus giving President Obama sufficient support to sustain a veto and move forward with the removal of economic sanctions on Iran.
While this effectively settles the question of whether the resolution of disapproval will ultimately pass and succeed in obstructing the nuclear agreement, it does not settle the broader issue. The House vote will presumably still be viewed by Republicans and some Democrats as an important symbolic gesture of opposition, showing voters and the international community that the US government as a whole is not committed to the deal.
In the remaining days before that vote, and even beyond, both sides are expected to go on fighting to shore up their political capital and base of support.
On the side of the Obama administration, the potential exists to win still more Senate votes before the resolution of disapproval passes the House of Representatives and reaches the upper chamber of Congress. Ten Democratic senators remain publicly undecided on the resolution, but if seven of them come out in favor of the deal, the congressional filibuster rules will allow them to block the legislation from even reaching the president’s desk.
Another article at Roll Call says that the Obama administration has not declared its intention to pursue the filibuster option but is nonetheless believed to want to avoid the need for a veto, if possible. Roll Call goes on to say that the passage and later veto of a resolution of disapproval would send mixed messages to international audiences and raise further questions about whether a future US government will back away from the nuclear agreement.
As Iran News Update pointed out previously, the resolution may have a similar effect on a portion of the American public, giving them the impression that the deal is a largely unilateral strategy by President Obama, forced through over the objections of the majority.
Most recent polls already show that the majority of the American public opposes the nuclear deal. Some of its supporters in Congress are thus voting against the preferences of their constituents, especially those in districts with large Jewish populations, where people’s views are more likely to have been affected by the lobbying efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu recently defended these lobbying efforts against accusations that they have failed in their goals while also damaging the relationship between the Israeli and American governments. Netanyahu insisted that it was important to express staunch opposition to the deal even if it did not result in defeating Obama’s veto, because doing so has helped to emphasize to the American people that Iran is their enemy and Israel is their ally.
The poll numbers constitute a quantitative sign that this effect has indeed been achieved. Meanwhile, town hall meetings between undecided American lawmakers and their constituents continue to provide opportunities for members of the American public to express these views directly.
At least two such opportunities arose this week, with Rhode Island Democratic Representative James Langevin holding a town hall meeting on Tuesday and West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin doing the same on Thursday. Both gatherings reportedly saw constituents voicing both support and opposition to the deal. But as with the overall debate and lobbying efforts, the opponents appear to have been more organized and numerous.
The fact that they are still being listened to certainly raises the possibility that the Republican Party’s near-unanimous opposition to the deal will gain more Democratic allies before the issue is fully resolved. This may increase the potential for Congress to take action against the deal even after it is implemented, as by passing legislation outlining new and more severe economic sanctions.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that if the sanctions on his country are merely suspended and not lifted entirely, Iran will pull out of the deal itself.