A key Republican committee chairman acknowledged on Tuesday that the White House lobbying campaign for the Iran nuclear deal has generated results, and said he doesn't know if opponents of the deal can prevail, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The comments from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and is a leading voice against the deal, came as supporters of the agreement claimed growing momentum. A 29th senator, Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, came out in favor of the deal on Tuesday.
Murray’s announcement put supporters within reach of the 34 votes required to uphold a presidential veto of a resolution disapproving of the agreement struck between Iran and six world powers.
Some supporters have now begun aiming to get 41 votes, which would allow Democrats to kill the disapproval resolution outright in the Senate and protect President Barack Obama from having to use his veto pen.
Corker said he didn't know if opponents could stop that effort, according to AP. But he criticized Democrats' attempts to filibuster the disapproval resolution and block a final vote, given that Congress overwhelmingly endorsed hard-fought legislation giving lawmakers the right to weigh in on the deal.
"I find that stunning that the leader, the Democratic leader, is proposing that," he told AP. "All but one senator voted in favor of having the right to vote on the final deal, so then to turn right around and filibuster it to me is very inconsistent and I think would be confusing to the people they represent."
As for whether Republicans who control Congress and unanimously oppose the deal could thwart such a filibuster, Corker said, "I don't know, I don't know."
"I don't think there's any question but the lobbying effort by the administration certainly has generated results, and I have no idea what the final vote is going to be but certainly they've picked up some support on the Democratic side," he told the news agency.
He declined to speculate as to why lobbying by opponents, including the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has not gotten more traction. Israel says the deal poses a threat to its very existence.
So far, only two Senate Democrats — New York's Chuck Schumer and New Jersey's Bob Menendez — have announced that they will vote against the deal, though several key Democratic senators have yet to announce their position.
One of the most-watched is Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, who is the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and whose position could influence colleagues, noted AP.
Corker said he spoke with Cardin Tuesday morning but that Cardin remained undecided.
Earlier this week, the Iran deal also received the backing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said it is the “best way” to curtail Iran’s military ambitions.
Reid had previously been holding off on announcing his stance on the deal and had indicated he intends to talk with influential Jewish backers before deciding.