Thirteen Democratic senators. That is all President Obama needs to ensure that the nuclear deal with Iran does not get derailed by Congress. And the battle over the votes of these 13 Democrats is about to overwhelm Capitol Hill.
The math is simple. With Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, Congress is likely to reject the Iran deal. Not one Republican has expressed support for the deal.
But that is only the first round. Obama has already made clear his intention to veto any legislation rejecting the Iran deal. If that happens, Republican leaders will have to come up with a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override Obama’s veto.
Most analysts focus on the Senate, where Republicans are expected to have a tougher time getting this super-majority. There are currently 54 GOP senators, so Republicans will need 13 Democrats to cross party lines and vote against the deal to reach the 67 votes required for an override.
Political analysts have identified between 14 and 28 Democratic senators in the undecided column. These include security hawks such as Virginia’s Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, or Michigan’s Gary Peters, as well as others who have been skeptical about Iran’s intentions from the get-go, and several senators with significant Jewish constituencies, including Florida’s Ben Nelson, Cory Booker of New Jersey and New York’s Chuck Schumer, who is currently viewed as the biggest prize on the Senate floor. Advocates believe that Schumer’s decision, thanks to his senior position in the Democratic Party (he is slated to take over as majority leader next year) and to his standing in the Jewish community, could play a significant role in influencing other undecided Democrats.
Based on press reports and interviews, the Forward compiled a list of 13 undecided Democrats most worth watching in the upcoming weeks. None of them has given any hint about his or her vote, and all stressed, in statements, that they would decide only after careful review of the agreement. We’ll be watching.
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman