A total of 151 House Democrats have signed a letter expressing strong support for President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, improving the chances that an eventual deal could survive the congressional oversight process.
The 151 Democratic signatories – which include leaders such as Nancy Pelosi and Chris Van Hollen – are significant. Here’s why: If a deal is reached that looks like the recently announced framework, and the GOP-controlled Congress votes to disapprove of it, it’s more likely that there will be enough House Democrats to sustain Obama’s veto, allowing the deal to move forward.
Under the Corker-Cardin framework establishing oversight of the Iran deal, approved by the full Senate last week, Congress would vote to approve or disapprove of a final deal, determining whether Obama has the authority to temporarily lift sanctions on Iran to implement it. If Congress fails to pass a disapproval measure – or if Congress does pass one but fails to override Obama’s veto of it – the deal moves forward.
Of the House Dems who signed the letter, 146 are voting members – just enough to sustain a veto.
The letter – which was spearheaded by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Ill., Lloyd Doggett, Texas, and David Price, N.C. – does not commit its signatories to ultimately support a final deal. But, in declaring support for seeing negotiations through – and in particular for turning the “strong” framework into a long-term deal, as the letter says – it suggests that the members will likely support a deal that looks like the framework the parties already agreed upon (obviously far from a certain outcome).
But the goal of the letter isn’t just to signal that a veto would likely be sustained. It’s also meant to help the talks along.
Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, thinks the letter could give U.S. negotiators leverage.
“This will strengthen the hand of U.S. and P5(plus)1 negotiators in the final rounds of difficult negotiations with Iran, because it reinforces the fact that the Obama administration will likely have sufficient political support from Congress to follow through on the U.S.’s commitments in the framework agreement,” Kimball says. “This expression of congressional support for the framework should make it more likely that the negotiators can finalize the remaining details before June 30.”
Obviously, there is still a long way to go. A deal might not be reached at all.
Or a final deal might be a bad one that causes some Democrats to defect.
Still, Democratic aides say that a handful of House members signaled support for the negotiations without signing the letter, which could provide a bit of breathing room.