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Sen. Mikulski's Vote Clears The Way For Obama's Deal With Iran


Here’s a little news. After weeks of lobbying, President Obama has just 34 out of 100 senators who have said so far that they support his nuclear deal with Iran – just 34. Here’s the rest of the news. Thirty-four is enough. It’s enough for lawmakers to sustain the deal in a vote this month. The president’s side reached 34 when Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski said she’s on board today. NPR’s senior editor Ron Elving has been helping us to track this story. He’s in our studios. Hi, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why is 34 enough?

ELVING: 34 is enough because that would be sufficient to sustain a presidential veto if it comes to that, and the president will veto any resolution of disapproval that the congress passes when it comes back next week.

INSKEEP: Oh, this is just a reminder – we were reporting on this. They’re not voting to approve the deal. It’s assumed that the president has the power to do the deal. They’re voting to disapprove the deal, which makes it harder on his opponents.

ELVING: That’s right. This is not a treaty. If it were a treaty it would need 67 votes in the Senate.

INSKEEP: OK, so 34 votes. That means the president can sustain a veto. What does this mean now? What happens now?

ELVING: What happens now is that Congress returns, debates, probably will pass the resolution of disapproval in the House. In the Senate there could be a filibuster against it. If the Democrats can go up from 34 to 41, they could make a filibuster stick, and in that event, the bill would never reach the president’s desk, and there would not need to be a veto.

INSKEEP: In any case, this disapproval resolution is not going to pass. We now know that. Can Congress, though, where there’s so much skepticism about this deal – can Congress still put pressure on the deal – on the implementation of the deal or pressure on Iran for that matter?

ELVING: We can count on that. The Republican majorities in the House and the Senate will have taken every opportunity they can to make it difficult to implement the deal, at least on the United States’ part. Of course they can’t bind all the other countries involved in the deal, and that’s European countries as well as Russia and China. They can’t bind all the rest of the countries in the world and the United Nations and the Security Council. The ship will have sailed to some degree, but they will do everything they can to inhibit the United States' participation in the deal. Of course, again, they have to face President Obama’s veto, and then beyond President Obama’s term – big question mark.

INSKEEP: But let’s remember the other side of the fact that this is an executive agreement, and Congress is not approving it. They’re failing to disapprove it. There are a number of Republican presidential candidates who said if they’re elected, they’re going to undo this deal. Would the next president still have the power to undo this executive agreement?

ELVING: Yes, the new president would be able to make new executive agreements, but this particular ship is going to have sailed. It’s going to be very difficult to repeal everything that has happened in the meantime. So I assume all of these presidential candidates on the Republican side will disavow the deal, and they will try to do everything they can as president, if they become a president, to undo it. But it is going to be very difficult once the deal is done.

INSKEEP: OK, Ron. Thanks very much.

ELVING: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That’s NPR senior editor Ron Elving. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.