POLITICO: Nancy Pelosi voices ‘strong support’ for Iran deal
House Democratic leaders are increasingly confident they have the votes necessary to sustain any presidential veto of GOP-backed legislation that would effectively scuttle the Iran nuclear deal.
Despite some lingering skepticism in parts of the caucus, leadership sources pointed to the 152 Democrats already on the record supporting the earlier framework of the nuclear deal as evidence that House Democrats will likely do their part to keep President Barack Obama’s landmark nonproliferation deal alive.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wields significant influence in the caucus, on Thursday announced her “strong support” for the deal.
“A nuclear Iran is unacceptable to the United States, to the world and, in particular, to Israel,” the California Democrat said. The deal is “intensifying our vigilance over every aspect of the entire Iranian nuclear program.”
Keeping House Democrats on board could end up being the easiest sales pitch White House has to make when it comes to Iran.
Congressional Republicans are denouncing the deal — which would stop the growth of Iran’s nuclear facilities while lifting a series of sanctions — as inadequate. Republicans are planning to move ahead with disapproval legislation after a 60-day review period — a measure Obama has already pledged to veto as it would essentially stop the accord from going forward.
That means Obama would need Democrats in both chambers to sustain his veto — or the agreement dies. In the Senate, the White House can lose no more than 12 Democrats from the 46-member caucus.
The numbers in the House are harder to pin down exactly. Despite the support of high-profile members like Pelosi and Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the margins would be close — mostly because Democrats hold so few seats.
So the White House is doing its best to avoid any surprises this fall, when the disapproval resolution is expected to start moving. Obama has already started aggressively lobbying members — a process that started before the nuclear agreement was even publicly announced.
Obama and Pelosi spoke by phone Monday night and other top Obama administration officials called Democrats who have been active on Iran shortly after the final accord was made public.
The early effort paid off with Pelosi. The California Democrat announced Thursday her “strong support” for the deal — and said she would personally lobby her fellow House Democrats to back it. She’ll join an established pro-deal whip operation in the House that’s run by Schakowsky and Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Texas and David Price of North Carolina.
Schakowsky was among a group of nearly 15 Democratic lawmakers invited to the White House on Thursday for an early morning briefing on the deal. The Jewish lawmakers questioned administration officials about how much money Iran would have access to after sanctions were lifted, the timetables for inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and the details of an arms embargo.
“People felt that the administration was more than willing to spend whatever time is necessary to provide the assurances to the members and they understand that the Jewish members have a particular concern, which is a concern about the security of Israel,” Schakowsky said. “There were reassurances made there too. I think in general the feeling was that not only was that session satisfactory but there is a willingness of the administration to work with us to answer the concerns.”
Pelosi’s support is a big win for Obama. He’ll need strong backing from House Democrats to sustain any veto of legislation disapproving of the Iranian deal. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said a majority of House lawmakers oppose the deal, though he didn’t say there was a veto-proof majority to scuttle the deal.
“It’s pretty clear to me that the majority of the House and Senate at a minimum are opposed to this deal,” Boehner said on Thursday. “What those numbers look like post Labor Day, we’ll see.”
There are 34 House Democrats who’ve never signed on to any of the pro-deal letters lawmakers have sent over the past year. That group includes senior Democrats — many of whom are Jewish or represent districts with large numbers of Jewish voters — like New York Reps. Joe Crowley, Eliot Engel and Steve Israel and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Other holdouts that the White House will focus on are California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence, and Florida Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy — both of whom are vying for the open Florida Senate seat.
Israel told POLITICO on Thursday that he is still skeptical of the deal and will hold off on deciding whether to support it until the 60-day review period is up. He also attended the meeting of Jewish lawmakers at the White House.
“It clarified lots of questions and uncertainties that … I had,” he said. “I’ve been very clear, and that’s why I fought so hard for the 60-day review period. I suspect that this morning’s meeting will be part of a series of meetings that will clarify and address the concerns that I have.”