WASHINGTON – White House hopes for stopping a congressional challenge to the Iran nuclear deal and sparing President Barack Obama from using a veto suffered a blow Friday when a key Senate Democrat announced his opposition.
The setback came in the announcement from Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, that he opposes the deal, which he said “legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program.”
Cardin’s move doesn’t affect the ultimate outcome for the international accord to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
The White House already clinched the necessary Senate votes to ensure that even if Obama ended up having to veto a disapproval resolution set for a vote next week, his veto would be upheld.
But with that support in hand and more piling up, the White House and congressional backers of the deal had begun aiming for a more ambitious goal: enough commitments to bottle up the disapproval resolution in the Senate with a filibuster, preventing it from even coming to a final vote.
With Cardin’s announcement, that goal remains in reach, but it will be tougher to attain.
“This is a close call, but after a lengthy review, I will vote to disapprove the deal,” Cardin wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. “After 10 to 15 years, it would leave Iran with the option to produce enough enriched fuel for a nuclear weapon in a short time,” he wrote.