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Obama Clinches 34th Vote To Secure Iran Nuclear Deal


The majority of U.S. lawmakers may not like the deal the Obama administration negotiated with Iran, but they won't be able to block it. That's because Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, has decided to back the agreement. She's the 34th senator to side with President Obama. That means even if Congress rejects it, the president would have enough votes to sustain a veto. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Even the lawmakers backing the president say they have some serious doubts about this Iran deal. Maryland Democrat Mikulski says in her statement, no deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime. But she adds it's the best option available to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to reassure all the skeptics in Congress that the administration will respond to any Iranian cheating and will challenge Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East.


JOHN KERRY: And in a letter that I am sending to all the members of Congress today, I make clear the administration's willingness to work with them on legislation to address shared concerns about regional security consistent with the agreement that we have worked out with our international partners.

KELEMEN: In his letter, he pledges more support for Gulf Arab allies that are wary of Iran and says, quote, "Israel's security is sacrosanct." He repeated that point about Israel in his speech today in Philadelphia.


KERRY: We are determined to help our ally address new and complex security threats and to ensure its qualitative military edge.

KELEMEN: Still, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC says it will continue to encourage lawmakers to reject what it calls the flawed Iran deal. An AIPAC spokesman says the deal will not block Iran's path to a bomb and will enrich and entrench the world's leading state sponsor of terror. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to continue to lobby against the deal, too, while Kerry seems to be hoping that the growing support will mean it won't even come up for a vote.


KERRY: Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran. It would be broadcasting a message so puzzling, most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend.

KELEMEN: He argues it's an illusion for Congress to think it can vote down the deal and then get world powers to negotiate a better one. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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