Washington — President Barack Obama appears to be nearing a veto-proof margin in Congress that would preserve the Iran nuclear deal, even with a key Democratic senator last week announcing his opposition.
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According to a "whip count" by the Washington Post, 29 senators have indicated that they support the Iran deal, leaving Obama five shy of the 34 needed to uphold a presumptive veto against a resolution of disapproval, assuming all senators are present for the vote.
Thirteen are still undecided, the newspaper reported, with many analysts and Congress watchers surveyed by Platts citing similar figures. The experts agree that the resolution likely will pass but not have enough support to defeat a veto.
"We don't think opponents have supermajorities to override a veto, but it's looking more like they'll get to 60 votes [in the Senate] to send a disapproval motion to the White House," a Republican lobbyist, who asked not to be identified, told Platts.
In the House of Representatives, Obama would need 145 members to uphold a veto, an unlikelier scenario, according to analysts, given the electoral landscape in the US, in which all representatives face election every two years and face pressure to appear tough on Iran.
Congress is in the midst of a 60-day review that expires September 17, during which it can vote to either approve or disapprove the deal, which offers Iran's oil sector sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling major portions of its nuclear program.
No Republicans have come out in support of the deal, and many key Democrats have given their thumbs down, as well, including Charles Schumer of New York, who announced his position Thursday. Schumer is slated to become the next Congress' Democratic leader.
Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, said Schumer's opposition was not unexpected and does not change his projection that the deal will be sustained by a veto.
He said he expects 36 senators -- two above the veto-proof margin -- to back the deal.
"An early look at the numbers suggests that the White House may be on track to garner sufficient Senate support, although the administration will probably need to fight for every vote, and the Senators who defend the deal will probably want the administration to be seen fighting for them, too," he wrote in a note to clients Monday.
Obama -- on vacation this week, as is Congress -- has dispatched many of his top Cabinet members to sell the deal to a wary American public, arguing that rejecting it would cause the rest of the world to back away from supporting US sanctions on Iran, leaving the US less influential.
Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down on that message Tuesday, saying at a Reuters-hosted forum that opponents' suggestions that the US use unilateral sanctions to force Iran to accept a better deal are unrealistic and could have dire ramifications -- including the world moving away from the dollar as the global reserve currency.
"Are you kidding me? The United States is going to start sanctioning our allies and their banks and their businesses because we walked away from a deal?" Kerry said. "The complications that will grow out of that are enormous and there will be an increase in this notion that there ought to be a different reserve currency because the United States is misbehaving."
He said the administration was not focusing on any "plan B" if the deal is killed by Congress.
"I'm quite confident we're going to be successful" on the vote, Kerry said.
Congress reconvenes on September 8, when it is expected to open debate on the resolution of disapproval.