Days after President
Not only are Republicans having difficulty securing the half-dozen Democratic
Now a veto showdown that once appeared almost certain is looking increasingly less so as those Senate
"What is encouraging is the more my colleagues ask questions, the more positive their tenor is around the agreement," said Sen.
Most Democratic senators are already inclined to back the president, but there are about a dozen or so with concerns about the deal, including several who might vote against it.
Key senators, including Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a top party leader, are struggling to balance the concerns of their constituencies with the broader foreign policy aims of the White House. The political dynamic is once again forcing some lawmakers to choose between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is leading opposition to the deal.
But Democratic senators are also displaying a reluctance to support a vote that might weaken the U.S. and Obama on the international stage. Even if a resolution of disapproval is approved by
Meanwhile, some Republican senators may support the accord, making it even harder for leaders of their party — which holds 54 seats in the upper chamber — to muster the 60 votes needed to advance a resolution that would unravel the deal.
But the battle is just getting started. With a congressional vote not expected until September, there's plenty of time during the 60-day congressional review period for both sides to pressure key senators. A massive lobbying effort is already underway on both sides. Vice President
"I have felt the pressure of this decision, the weight," said Sen.
The wavering Democrats fall into two categories. Some are part of a hawkish, pro-Israel wing, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who has yet to decide. Others are more centrist or come from conservative states and must keep voters' preferences in mind.
Senators want assurances that international inspectors will have full access to Iranian nuclear and military facilities, and that sanctions will "snap back" if Iran is caught cheating. They are also unhappy about the lifting of a conventional arms embargo against Iran in five to eight years, and a provision that will allow the U.N. Security Council to consider the deal before Congress has completed its 60-day review.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, a key vote as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was "presumptuous" for the administration to seek U.N. approval before Congress votes, and he is pressing the White House to reconsider.
But no Senate Democrat has flatly rejected the deal so far. Support from the party's presumed presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, provided an early sign that opposition from within the party may be more muted than once expected.
Thanks to its majority-rules voting structure, the Republican-led
"We've got to judge it against not what is ideal, but what is the alternative," Flake said Thursday. "The alternatives don't sound too good either."
Schumer, who is expected to become the party's next Senate leader, is taking an approach adopted by many of the wavering senators: He won't say yes but he won't say no.