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Iran nuclear deal survives U.S. Senate

Beginning next week, Obama will be free to start scaling back U.S. sanctions to implement the deal

Published: Updated:

The hard-fought nuclear accord with Iran has survived the U.S. Senate on Thursday, as Democrats overcame ferocious Republican opposition and delivered President Barack Obama a major victory on his top foreign policy priority.

A disapproval resolution for the agreement fell just short of the votes needed to move forward as most Democratic and independent senators banded together against it, all but guaranteeing that the measure would not reach Obama’s desk and the nuclear deal will move forward unchecked by a Congress controlled by Republicans.

It’s an improbable win by Obama in the face of staunch opposition from the Israel and Republicans in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail.

Republicans remained committed to working against the international accord, as members of the House of Representatives continued to pursue eleventh-hour strategies to derail it against all odds and Senate Republicans promised a re-vote.

This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security and for the safety and security of the world

U.S. President Barack Obama

Beginning next week, Obama will be free to start scaling back U.S. sanctions to implement the agreement negotiated by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers. The accord aims to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.

“This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security and for the safety and security of the world,” the president said in a statement. “Going forward, we will turn to the critical work of implementing and verifying this deal so that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon.”

Opponents never had much chance of blocking the deal in Congress, where Democratic minorities in the House and Senate could secure a win for Obama simply by upholding his veto of a disapproval resolution. Yet it was widely expected in the days after the nuclear deal was signed July 14 that Obama would have to use his veto pen.

Frustrated Republicans

Frustrated Republicans railed against Democrats for using a procedural vote to block final passage of the disapproval resolution, and issued grim warnings about a deal they contend could serve only to enrich Tehran and leave it closer to building a bomb when constraints begin to ease in 10 or 15 years. They promised that Thursday’s vote would not be the Senate’s last word, and moments after it was over Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the stage for another next week.

“No amount of saying this issue is over makes it over,” McConnell declared, adding that if a Republican wins the White House next year, “I say to Iranian observers of the debate, (the deal) will be looked on anew.”

But Democrats led by Minority Leader Harry Reid promised that any further votes would have the same outcome “and are just simply a waste of time.”