Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, the lone Republican who was considering supporting the Iran nuclear deal, announced plans on Saturday to vote no, reports The Associated Press (AP).
The announcement deals a significant blow to the White House’s efforts to garner bipartisan backing for the deal.
Flake, a freshman who had praised President Barack Obama for seeking a diplomatic solution, had been publicly undecided, making him a top target of the White House’s concerted lobbying campaign, noted AP. Senate vote-counters had considered Flake the only truly undecided GOP vote, although his fellow Republicans had expressed confidence he would oppose it.
“I cannot vote in support of this deal,” Flake said, according to the news agency.
He added that he was concerned that the deal severely limits lawmakers’ ability to sanction Iran for activities unrelated to its nuclear program. Obama has argued that multilateral sanctions under the United Nations umbrella will be lifted under the deal, but that the U.S. will retain sanctions punishing Iran for other issues like human rights and its support for extremist groups like Hezbollah.
“As written, this agreement gives Iran leverage it currently doesn’t have,” Flake said.
Flake’s opposition to the deal all but guarantees that no Republicans – at least in the Senate – will back the deal.
All told, 20 Senate Democrats have backed the deal, with one – New York Senator Chuck Schumer – opposing it, noted AP. 46 House Democrats have supported the deal, compared to 10 who are opposed.
Congress is currently in the process of reviewing the deal with Iran, and has until September 17 to accept or reject it.
Last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), expressed his confidence that the nuclear deal with Iran will not be approved by Congress.
“Knowing what I know about the agreement,” he said, “at the end of the day, it'll be disapproved.”
McCarthy rejected the argument that the lifting of sanctions on Iran is already a done deal because of the other countries involved. “If the agreement did not go through,” he argued, “you still have the American sanctions. Countries would be in a position then to have to make a decision, do they choose to deal with the Iranian economy or the size of the American economy? I would assume more would side on the American side of the economy.”