American lawmakers are set to begin discussions over the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.
As they return from a summer recess on Tuesday, the Republican-weighted House of Representatives will work on a resolution to disapprove the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the backdrop of a row with the Democratic White House, engaged in negotiations with Tehran.
With strong Republican support for the resolution, US President Barack Obama has already vowed to veto it, given he now has enough Democratic vote in the Senate to sustain his veto power.
How did Congress enter the game?
Under pressure from the lawmakers, Obama had to sign the “Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015” into law in May, giving Congress the opportunity to review an accord and consider a so-called resolution of disapproval.
Almost all the Republicans are against the accord along with three Democratic senators and 14 House representatives.
Republicans hold the majority in both chambers — 54 seats in the 100-member Senate and 246 in the House with 434 members and one vacancy – but Obama still has the upper hand to save his foreign policy legacy.
How does the vote work?
Congress has until September 17 to pass the anti-Iran resolution, as expected, after which Obama has 12 days to veto it.
Then, Congress will have another 10 days to get enough votes in an attempt to override the president’s veto.
To override it, votes by two-third of lawmakers from both chambers are needed, which is unlikely to come about as 38 Democratic senators, including two independents who caucus with the party, have already voiced public support for the JCPOA, meaning enough votes will not be given against the president’s veto power at least in the Senate.
Obama does not need more than 34 votes in the Senate to sustain his power. Another alternative would be 146 votes in favor of the deal in the House.
So far, 110 Democratic House representatives have backed the agreement, reached in mid-July between Iran and the P5+1 that also includes Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has expressed confidence that enough votes will be gathered to sustain the president’s power even in the House.
Can Obama win without veto?
On the other hand, three more Democratic senators, out of the five yet remaining undecided, could come in support of the nuclear conclusion, in which case the party lawmakers could use a filibuster to stop the disapproval resolution from coming up for a vote.
In other words, they need 41 votes in the Senate to mount a filibuster, a tactic that involves legislators obstructing the passage of a bill by speaking at inordinate length when the measure is debated.
A Democratic filibuster in the Senate would be a clear victory for Obama as he will not even have to use his veto power, which he has used only four times since taking office.
Some supporters of the agreement may not back the idea of a filibuster, but the opposition would finally have no significant implication as Obama will emerge with the veto power behind the agreement.
Before clinching the agreement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “As a foreign government, I only deal with the US government. I do not deal with Congress. The responsibility of bringing that into line falls on the shoulders of the president of the United States. That’s the person with whom we are making an agreement.”