Democratic senators supporting the Iran deal “are betting that Iran will cooperate with the deal, at least until their next election,” writes Washington-based website The Hill. Democrats opposing the agreement would be defying the president, and could expect harsh attacks from the left wing of the Democratic party.
American Enterprise Institute defense and security policy analyst Thomas Donnelly told the website a decision to vote against the deal could be “possibly career-ending.”
There are 19 Senate Democrats who are still undecided, according to The Hill's whip list.
Senate Democrats who are facing reelection in 2016 and are still undecided on the deal include Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Patty Murray (Wash.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.).
Anti-deal groups are reportedly targeting the senators whom they see as teetering, including Sens. Blumenthal, Cory Booker (N.J.), and Bennet, "who is the most vulnerable Democrat facing reelection next year,” wrote The Hill. Also facing heavy lobbying are Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
As members of Congress arrive back to Washington in September, pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is planning an all-out lobbying blitz, bringing up to 800 members to Washington to lobby against the deal.
Emily Landau, head of the arms control program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, is also in Washington this week to brief staffers of congressmen who are still undecided on the Iran nuclear deal, in the hope of scuttling the Iran nuclear deal.
According to opponents of the deal, convincing 67 senators to vote for a bill opposing the deal – thus achieving a veto-proof majority – would be very difficult at this time. However, even getting 60 senators to vote for it, forcing Obama to veto the bill, would be an achievement that could be exploited.
It appears that this is the more realistic result some pro-Israel lobbyists are now focusing on.
Sparking a renegotiation?
"I think it could spark a renegotiation," said Landau. "I mean, that's the reason to go for it, to say to the administration, 'We're not satisfied with this, go back to the negotiating table and bring us a better deal,’" Landau told The Hill.
At the least, she said, a resolution of disapproval – to be voted on in mid-September – would also make it easier for the next president to scuttle the deal.
After Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) became the second Democratic senator to oppose the deal, Republicans only need four more Democrats to reach a filibuster-proof majority of 60 for a resolution of disapproval regarding the Iran deal.
The 246 Republicans in the House provide more than the simple majority of 218 needed, and they also have the support of 12 Democrats.
However, if it passes, President Barack Obama could veto the disapproval measure. In that case, a much higher threshold of a two-thirds majority would be needed to override the veto. That would require seven more Senate Democrats, and another 32 House Democrats – a very tall order.
And yet, Landau said, the administration is not acting entirely confident. "When I see how the administration is reacting to the criticism, I get the sense that the administration feels pressured…maybe because they assess that the issue is not clear cut.”