Democrats Confident Of Iran Deal in Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

U.S. backers of the Iran nuclear deal are increasingly confident of enough Democratic support to ensure it survives review by Congress, despite fierce opposition by majority Republicans and a massive lobbying drive.

By the time the House of Representatives recessed for the summer last week, no senior Democrat in the chamber had come out formally against the agreement and several central figures, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were strongly in favor.

Pelosi said she was confident that if, as expected, Republicans pass a “resolution of disapproval” to try to sink the deal, a promised veto of that measure by President Barack Obama would be sustained.

At least 44 Democrats in the House and 13 Democrats in the Senate would have to defy Obama and join Republicans in opposing the deal to get the two-thirds majorities in both chambers needed to override a veto.

“More and more of them (House Democrats) have confirmed to me that they will be there to sustain the veto,” Pelosi told reporters.

In the last two weeks, the White House has rolled out its big guns at congressional hearings and private meetings to advocate for the deal, which Obama says is not perfect but is the best way to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.

Powerful pro-Israel lobbying groups that believe it would endanger Israel by empowering Iran have been especially active, although some pro-Israel factions support the deal.

Opponents had hoped influential Democrats would come out against the deal early, to give momentum before the recess.

But despite signs of skepticism, the few Democrats who did openly oppose it, including Representatives Grace Meng and Juan Vargas, are not among those considered influential on the issue.

“That shows the strength of the firewall we have here,” a senior Democratic congressional aide said.

To date, no Senate Democrat has formally announced opposition, although many are undecided. A few influential leaders, including number-two Democrat Dick Durbin, are strongly in favor.

The Senate recess begins on Friday and both houses return to Washington on Sept. 8. Congress then has until Sept. 17 to accept or reject the pact, which the White House considers one of the major foreign policy initiatives of the Obama presidency.

The pressure has been particularly strong on high-profile Jewish Democrats known as strong supporters of Israel, most particularly Chuck Schumer. Schumer says he has not made up his mind.