Thursday, August 20, 2015

Whip count: Where the Senate stands on the Iran deal

The Washington Post

Congress has until mid-September to review the nuclear deal President Obama just reached with Iran. Lawmakers will vote on a yes-or-no resolution that could give the deal the go-ahead -- or halt it at least temporarily.

Obama has vowed to veto any "no" vote or effort to dilute a deal that he says will keep Iran from building a bomb. But because an agreement was reached just before the August recess, opponents of the agreement have two months to rally support for their side and try to gather the two-thirds majorities required to overcome that veto.

Which is where we come in. Will Congress get the two-thirds it needs? At least in the Senate, we can glean something of an idea of where things stand.

So we've begun monitoring all the senators' comments on the issue and classifying them accordingly. Be sure to bookmark this page for the latest updates. We'll update this whip count regularly.
And if we miss anything or classify a senator wrongly, make sure to let us know via e-mail.

Current state of play

(Updated 8:46 p.m. on Aug. 19)

Yes or leaning yes (34 needed to uphold veto, keep the deal): 31

No or leaning no (67 needed to override veto, kill the deal): 57

Unknown/unclear: 12

And now, the 100 senators ...

Yes (25)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.): “I’m proud that America led six countries toward an historic international agreement with Iran."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): "If this agreement is what the Administration says it is, it is a major, historic diplomatic breakthrough.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio): “This deal is not about trusting the Iranian regime, but instead working with our allies on comprehensive, verifiable restrictions to block Iran's pathways to a nuclear bomb without precipitating another war in the Middle East" he said Aug. 14.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.): "Despite having questions about Iran’s intentions, I am willing to give this agreement the opportunity to succeed," he said in an Aug. 19 statement.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.): "The United States, working with our allies, has reached a historic agreement with Iran that, according to President Obama and Secretary Kerry, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I commend our negotiators for this critical effort. Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): "I stand behind the U.S. negotiating team and will support this agreement in the Senate."
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.):"This agreement is, in my opinion, the most effective, realistic way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon anytime in the next 15 years. It does so by imposing a series of physical limits on Iran's nuclear program, especially its production of the fissile material it would require to make a bomb," he wrote in a CNN op-ed Aug. 13.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote on Medium Aug. 6 "Why I'm supporting an imperfect Iran deal", saying "Iran made essential concessions in the deal" and " this deal will provide international nuclear inspectors with access that they otherwise would not have had."
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.): "[T]he numbers under this deal look a hell of a lot better than what we got under the previous policy," Heinrichtold Politico.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): "While this agreement is not perfect, it has gained broad national and international support, including 29 top American nuclear scientists, of which six are Nobel laureates," she said Aug. 18.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.): " I think if it matches the April 2 framework and there is a solid verification and inspection regime, I think it’s going to be good for our national security," he said on PBS July 15th.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.): In a statement Aug. 10, she said the deal is imperfect but it offers the "best available option to put the brakes on Iran's development of a nuclear weapon," according to the AP.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.): "we thought we were negotiating in good faith and we'd have a deal. If we walk out now, many of these countries are going to say, 'okay, you're in it by yourself,'" he said Aug. 5.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.): "This agreement is far from perfect and carries risks. But I believe our negotiators achieved as much as they reasonably could, and that if strictly implemented, this plan can be effective," he said Aug. 19.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.): "I've said for some time that the best way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is through diplomacy, not war. And after very thoughtful consideration over the past several weeks, I believe that more than ever," he said in an Aug. 5 press release.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.): "Unless there is an unexpected change, I will support the nuclear agreement," he said Aug. 4.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.): "If Iran cheats, they will be isolated, international sanctions snap back, and we will have better intelligence, a broader coalition, and a stronger case for swift, forceful action," said the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee on Aug. 18.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): "So I think we go as far as we possibly can in trying to give peace a chance, if you like. Trying to see if this agreement will work. And I will support it," he told CBS's Face the Nation Aug. 7.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii): "Despite the partisan rancor in Washington, the vast majority of experts believe this is a worthy deal," he said in an Aug. 10 statement.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.): "I've concluded this is the best available option we have for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," she said in an Aug. 6 statement.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.): "This is a historic moment. This agreement has profound impact if we approve it and - make no mistake - if we fail to approve it," he said in a July 30 speech.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): "The question now before Congress — the only question before Congress — is whether the recently announced nuclear agreement represents our best available option for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” she said in a statement to The Boston Globe. “I am convinced that it does.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.): "Short of war, with all its dramatic uncertainties and terrible costs, I do not see another pathway to impose a nuclear weapons-free Iran," he said Aug. 18.

Clearly leaning yes, reserving final judgment (2)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.): "The most critical element of the deal for me is likely to be our ability, and the ability of the world, to verify strict Iranian compliance with the agreement."
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.): "Today's announcement is a significant milestone in the effort to preclude Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon.... The devil is in the details."

Leaning yes, but hesitant (3)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.): "I have not made a decision about whether I will vote to reject the agreement or not. And I think that there are weaknesses in this agreement. The president has said, he's right, no agreement is perfect," he told constituents in Connecticut in August.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): "We might get a deal that’s a good deal," Reid said in March, urging his colleagues to wait on passing the law allowing them to have a vote on the Iran deal. When he was majority leader, he blocked Republican attempts to impose more sanctions on Iran, which Obama warned would have derailed negotiations.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.): "I believe that American strength is rooted in both military might and diplomacy, and I am pleased that we have given diplomacy a chance. However, we still need to look at the agreement in its entirety before passing judgment."
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.): The moderate Democrat was consideringco-sponsoring the Iran review bill but ended up not for fear of scuttling the negotiations. "I’m making sure I’m going to make the right decision, not when I’m going to make it," she told Politico. "It's hard," she added in a separate interview. She showed signs she's leaning yes on Aug. 9 on NBC's "Meet The Press," saying: "What happens if we don't do the deal? Will Iran get this money anyways? And I think that's something to consider," adding "It's not a perfect deal. We don't trust Iran."

Purely undecided (8)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.): "The stakes are high, and the details of this deal matter."
Sen Cory Booker (D-N.J.): "I will hold this deal to a very high standard and in reaching any conclusion," he said.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.): "There's a lot of questions," the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee said  on NPR on July 14. In his opening statement of a July 23 hearing on the deal, he said, "Our negotiators got an awful lot, particularly on the nuclear front."
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) "Over the coming days, I will be conducting a thorough review of the agreement to evaluate whether it protects our national security interests," but in November, he urged his colleagues on the banking committee to impose more sanctions on Iran, saying he had little faith in interim negotiations, which "simply allowed more time for the Iranian regime to continue its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability."
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.): "I am a Democrat, and I would like to be able to support this agreement. But I have serious reservations about it," he told Politico.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.): Heitkamp was a co-sponsor of the Iran review bill Congress passed in May. Her staff says she is still reviewing the deal. "We must prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb – period. That is our priority and where our focus should remain. And we must avoid lifting any sanctions without verifiable actions so Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon," she said.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.): Peters was an original co-sponsor of the 2015 Kirk-Menendez Iran sanctions bill that Obama said would put unnecessary pressure on the negotiations.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): "“I will review this agreement with the utmost attention to detail, given the incredible importance of getting an agreement of this magnitude right."

Leaning no (36)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.): "We have a responsibility to ensure that Iran never achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. This deal give us little confidence that we will be successful in this regard."
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.): " Regardless of what the president has concluded and what he tries to sell, we need to individually take a real hard look at this and make our own decisions because they are going to have immense consequences for the future."
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.): "Iran cannot be allowed to gain nuclear weapons capabilities, and I am skeptical whether the agreement reached by the Obama administration is truly verifiable and enforceable."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho): "The consequences of a bad deal are monumental," he said in May.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.): He signed a Republican human rights letter to Secretary of State John Kerry saying "we are concerned the Obama Administration is failing to recognize the inherent danger of engaging in nuclear negotiations with this particular regime given their appalling record on human rights."
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): She gave an April floor speech declaring a deal should only lift sanctions if Iran abandons support of terrorism.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.): "I have often stated that I believe this negotiation was lost from the start.... That said, I will carefully review the details before rendering my final judgment."
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Sen. Jerry Moran  (R-Kan.)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): "If today’s agreement is ‘historic’ as some are claiming, it’s still very much unknown if the history being made is positive or negative."
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.): "It is important that any deal is enforceable so that we can keep Iran accountable," he said in May.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.): "“It’s hard to make a good deal with bad actors."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): " I was skeptical that Iran’s leaders would agree to dismantle their nuclear weapons program and I have questions about whether this agreement accomplishes that, particularly in light of Iran’s history on this issue."

No (21)

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.): "Rather than end Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, over time this deal industrializes the program of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism," The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote Aug. 17 in a Washington Post op-ed.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.): "If this deal is approved, it will represent a historic defeat for the United States."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.): The Senate Foreign Relations Committee member said Aug. 15 the deal's benefits "are outweighed by severe limitations the (agreement) places on Congress and future administrations in responding to Iran's non-nuclear behavior in the region,
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.): "This deal is unwise. For the sake of the region, and the sake of the world, it must be rejected."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.): "This agreement will enrich and empower Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism."
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.): Menendez co-authored a bill that would have put sanctions on Iran if negotiations failed by June 30 and was the second prominent Democrat to come out against the deal. "If Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it," he said.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.): "“This deal won’t protect Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state—it just delays it."
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho): "This deal falls disastrously short of what the Obama Administration originally promised and gives the Iranian government what it desires."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): "I expect that a significant majority in Congress will share my skepticism of this agreement and vote it down."
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): "The Administration just lit the fuse for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): The likely next-in-line Democratic leader and ally of Israel said Aug. 6 he cannot support the Iran deal. "In the first ten years of the deal, there are serious weaknesses in the agreement," he wrote on Medium. His "no" vote is a big loss for Obama and deal supporters.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) "The Iran deal enables a terrorist machine," he wrote in an Aug. 3 op-ed.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.): "When you’re dealing with somebody, you consider the past conduct of who you’re negotiating with … the people in charge of Iran have shown no indication that they’re trustworthy," he told WAPT News Jackson on Aug. 18.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.): "This agreement is a really, really bad deal for America, for Israel, and for freedom."

Unknown / Unclear (4)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.): She's approved tough sanctions on Iran in 2012 but has been quiet on the deal so far. On July 23 she told Politico: "It’s a really busy time around here and people are trying to do other things. And so if you don’t have to decide in the next two days, then people will take their time."
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.): A leader in the Democratic Party told Politico it "would take us all a while" to decide.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.