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More US Dems Leaning in Favor of Accord

More US Dems Leaning in Favor of AccordMore US Dems Leaning in Favor of Accord

Determined to secure support for the Iran nuclear deal, US President Barack Obama is making inroads with a tough constituency — his fellow Democrats in Congress.

A handful of key Democrats stepped forward to support the accord within hours of Obama's personal lobbying at the White House last week, part of the administration's all-out campaign since the pact was announced July 14. Other Democrats have signaled they are leaning in favor and still others have remained undeclared, awaiting a vote in September, the AP reported.

The deal, which places constraints on Iran's nuclear program for specified durations in exchange for relief from sanctions, is not a traditional fight between the White House and Republicans, who control the House and Senate. This is about Obama, who has often been at odds with congressional Democrats, trying to cajole them into backing the accord.

The US president has talked to more than 80 lawmakers, either individually or in small groups, administration officials said. Obama, who delivers a speech on the deal on Wednesday at American University, also hosted a reception for about 100 House Democrats at the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden has traveled to Capitol Hill and invited lawmakers for breakfast at the Naval Observatory. Cabinet and other administration officials have spoken with more than 175 lawmakers.

Lawmakers can vote to approve, disapprove or take no action on the deal. Obama says he will veto a congressional disapproval and would need 34 members of the Senate or 146 members of the House to stand with him so Congress cannot override his veto.

***Robust Selling  

"In the real world, this is a deal that gets the job done," Obama said in a conference call with supporters.  

Several Democrats said Obama's detailed understanding of the accord won their respect.

Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee, who announced his support for the pact, said Obama knows as much about the deal as the negotiators.

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva said the administration's robust selling of the deal strengthens the Democratic stance on Capitol Hill. "We don't need to be an island right now," said Grijalva, who has pledged to support it.

At one meeting at the White House, New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Obama acknowledged that the deal was not perfect.

"He makes an impressive case, but there are still questions I have," said Nadler, a Jewish representative who has met one-on-one with the president.

The lengthy August congressional recess will be a test, with multimillion-dollar ad campaigns and heavy lobbying by both sides, including the pro-Israel lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Some members of Congress are going on trips to Israel, with some arranged by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC, a deal foe.

Sen. Tim Kaine said he thinks most senators have an idea of how they will vote. "Probably everybody has a lean already," he said, adding that he still is undecided and has lingering questions.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra of California said he is still talking to people on both sides of the issue. "I'm in no rush to make a decision because there's no rush to cast a vote," Becerra said.

Two House Democrats — New York's Grace Meng and New Jersey's Albio Sires — announced their opposition. Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, also a Democrat, backed it. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats would sustain a veto.

Democrats who are Jewish or represent districts with large Jewish populations are being heavily lobbied. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the agreement.

Rep. Sander Levin, a prominent Jewish Democrat, backed the deal. New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell, who is undecided but leaning toward approving the deal, said a former Israeli general who used to lead Israel's Labor Party visited his office and surprisingly urged him to vote yes.

Last week, lawmakers said Obama gave a passionate defense of the deal, which he believes would be a gilded foreign policy peg in his presidential legacy. Congressional votes interrupted the meeting, but some 20 lawmakers took Obama up on his offer to return to the White House after the vote to ask questions for some two hours.

 

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