Democrats filibuster vote on legislation opposing Iran deal in Senate

© Jason Reed
Senate Democrats have filibustered a vote in the US Senate that would have allowed lawmakers to move forward on a Republican-backed resolution disapproving of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Forty-two Democrats voted to keep the resolution from advancing to a floor debate, but 58 senators voted to move forward with the bill. However, the Iran deal opponents failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to defeat the Democrats’ filibuster, thus leaving the legislation in limbo.

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As long as the bill remains stalled in the Senate, President Barack Obama will not have to exercise a veto to turn back any resolution rejecting the nuclear deal, which was negotiated between Iran and six world powers. He will also remain able to lift sanctions against Tehran as part of the agreement.

Obama called the vote “a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world.”

“Going forward, we will turn to the critical work of implementing and verifying this deal so that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon, while pursuing a foreign policy that leaves our country - and the world - a safer place.”

Despite failing to advance the resolution, Republicans said they planned to hold more votes on the issue to increase pressure on Democrats and break their opposition. Additional votes are expected next week.

“It will be all Iran next week,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said before the vote, as quoted by The Hill.

“There are going to be more votes,” he added. “There will be other opportunities for people to change their mind next week, hopefully after they hear from their constituents.”

Under the terms of the deal, Iran would drastically limit the capabilities of its controversial nuclear program and allow international inspectors access to nuclear sites. In exchange, the international community would lift restrictive sanctions placed on Tehran over the operation of the program.

Opponents of the deal have argued, however, that the agreement does little to constrain Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon in the future or curtail its ambitions in the region.

The deal’s survival marks a major victory for President Obama and the international community, which has overwhelmingly thrown its support behind the agreement, with the exception of heavy criticism coming from Israel.

“It’s extremely important to the well-being of the United States and the world that this has happened,” investigative journalist Gareth Porter told RT, referring to Obama earning enough support to keep the deal in place.

“One would not want to contemplate the consequences of the failure to get those votes to defeat this very, very well-funded and extremely aggressive effort to defeat the agreement.”

The pro-Israel AIPAC group, in particular, has heavily lobbied lawmakers to reject the deal. The group had urged Democrats not to filibuster the resolution, Politico reported, though that effort looks to have been ineffective.

Alongside the anti-deal group Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, AIPAC spent between $20 million and $40 million on television advertisements criticizing the agreement, according to NPR.

“It’s a huge defeat for AIPAC,” Porter said, adding that there is still another AIPAC-backed measure that looks to “frustrate the ability of the US government to carry out the agreement.” However, he predicts this effort will fail, too.

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Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopefuls in the 2016 race have been trying to rally support against the deal, using the issue to bolster their standing among the conservative base and portray the Obama administration as weak. Several have pledged to reject the deal upon being elected to the White House.

On Wednesday, candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) held a rally in Washington, DC during which they blasted the deal.

"I've never seen something so incompetently negotiated – and I mean never," Trump said.