Senate blocks vote on Iran deal, giving Obama a major victory


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the Iran nuclear deal, effectively handing President Barack Obama a victory on his signature foreign policy initiative.

Senate Republicans could not advance a bill to kill the deal on Thursday afternoon, failing to garner the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the measure and bring it to a vote. Voting against the motion to end debate were 42 Democrats – one more than needed.

The vote, while procedural, provided the dramatic culmination of weeks of efforts by opponents of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers to kill the deal.

Opposing the deal were Republicans in both chambers, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Backing it were Obama, the congressional Democratic leadership and liberal policy groups, among them J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

“This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” Obama said in a statement.

Opponents had said all along that it was a long shot to garner enough lawmakers to override Obama’s pledged veto of any bid to kill the deal; an override needs two-thirds of the Senate and the House of Representatives. On Wednesday, hundreds of AIPAC activists lobbied Congress against allowing a filibuster.

“While the American people deserved a direct up or down vote on the resolution of disapproval, the fifty-eight senators who spoke out against the agreement and voted to invoke cloture succeeded in their effort to express opposition to the deal,” AIPAC said in a statement following the vote. “AIPAC applauds the senators who supported moving to a vote on final passage of the resolution of disapproval. We urge those who have blocked a vote today to reconsider.”

But last week it became clear that Obama would have the backing of enough senators to filibuster the deal-killing bill, sparing Obama the messy spectacle of having to override a bill passed by Congress.

Intensive White House lobbying focused especially on Jewish Democratic lawmakers, as well as on Jewish Americans.

The House is set to vote on Republican measures that contend that Obama has yet to abide by the law and deliver the full deal to Congress for consideration. Supporters of the bills say that without the full deal, the clock has yet to start on the 30-day review period.

The failure of the bill in the Senate likely makes such attempts moot.

The White House says that the item that Republicans claim is missing, the inspections agreement between Iran and the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, is not subject to U.S. purview and therefore not part of the deal.

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