President Obama's hopes for a sliver of bipartisan support for the nuclear agreement with Iran were all but dashed Saturday as the lone Republican senator thought to be undecided announced that he would not vote for the deal.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said that though he had backed the international negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, he could not support the agreement reached with the United States and other world powers.
The result "does contain benefits in terms of limiting Iran's ability to produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon for a period of time, particularly at its known nuclear facilities," Flake said in a statement. "But these benefits are outweighed by severe limitations the [deal] places on Congress and future administrations in responding to Iran's non-nuclear behavior in the region."
Even though the Obama administration had given assurances that it could still impose sanctions on Iran over non-nuclear issues, Flake said, "these assurances do not square with the text" of the agreement.
The decision by Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will be a disappointment to the White House, which had been lobbying the maverick senator.
Even so, his announcement comes against a growing number of Democrats who have said they will stand behind Obama on the Iran deal, giving the president a solid firewall to sustain a veto of a GOP-led resolution to disapprove the Iran nuclear agreement.
At this point, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is the only Senate Democrat to come out in opposition, although Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey could join him when he makes his position on the deal official next week.