President Barack Obama has received enough pledges of support in Congress to ensure that one of his signature foreign-policy goals will remain intact.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) on Wednesday announced support for the Iranian nuclear deal.
It brings the number of senators supporting the deal to 34, the key threshold to make sure it survives congressional opposition.
Obama needed pledges of at least 34 senators to stave off a potential veto override led by Republican members of the Senate.
“No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime,” Mikulski said in a statement. “I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal.”
On Tuesday, the administration secured the support of two Democratic senators who had been considered on the fence, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania).
The deal’s opponents are set on passing a vote of disapproval of the deal. But Obama has pledged to veto any such disapproval, which means opponents would need two-thirds majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to override that potential veto.
Now, the Obama administration and proponents of the deal are hoping they can gather enough support so that Obama will not have to veto a bill at all.
So far, only Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) have said that they will vote against the agreement.
If proponents can ensure that at least 41 members of the Democratic caucus support the agreement, they can block the bill’s passage. No Republican is expected to support the deal.
News of Mikulski’s decisive pledge drew immediate derision from Republicans. Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said “forcing a bad deal, over the objections of the American people and a majority in Congress, is no win for President Obama.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), also a presidential candidate, said he would take action to overturn the deal on his theoretical first day as president.
“When I’m President of the United States, we will reimpose those sanctions on day one, and then I will go to Congress and ask them to even increase those sanctions more, and I will back that up with a credible threat of military force. A simple message to the Ayatollah: If you try to build a weapon, we will destroy your program,” Rubio said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) also criticized the deal, saying that the decision would make Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon easier.
Partisan minority should not block bipartisan effort to stop bad deal that will fund mullahs, destabilize region, & pave Iran's path to bomb
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) September 2, 2015
Mikulski is not seeking reelection and is set to retire from the Senate in 2017. Progressive groups immediately cheered the victory.
“The fact that 34 senators have now come out in support is a testament both to the merits of the agreement as well as to pro-deal activists’ powerful nationwide grassroots organizing,” said Anna Galland, the civic action executive director of the group MoveOn.org.
Brett LoGiurato contributed reporting.