It looks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may have thrown in the towel on the GOP’s effort to stop the Iran nuclear deal from going into effect.
To reject the pact designed to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, a majority of Congress would need to vote against it. But a two-thirds majority would be required to overcome the president’s promised veto of the resolution of disapproval, including at least 13 Democrats in the Senate, something McConnell admitted looks unlikely.
Obama “can win by getting one-third plus one of either house,” McConnell told a business group at an event on Monday in Kentucky, according to the Associated Press. “So he’s still got a great likelihood of success.”
"I hope we can defeat it, but the procedure is obviously stacked in the president's favor," he told reporters after the event. "We'll see."
The admission is surprising because there is roughly a month left before lawmakers are set to vote on the agreement.
McConnell himself has placed enormous emphasis on the looming debate over the deal, saying he will require all senators to be in their seats when the agreement is being discussed in the chamber and that all hearings will be postponed during that time.
In addition to conceding a major foreign policy win to Obama, McConnell said he would be surprised if any Senate Republicans voted in favor of the deal, though he suggested it could be tweaked under the next president.
Several Republican White House hopefuls have trashed the bargain with Iran, with some like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker vowing to tear up the deal on their first day in office.
The Senate whip count on the agreement remains fluid and there are still several undecided Democrats who could tip the scales one way or another.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN), who has been deeply skeptical of the deal since it was announced in July, declared in an op-ed in The Washington Post that he would vote against it because it doesn’t stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“Congress should reject this deal and send it back to the president,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said she would back the deal.
“This agreement is the best option to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon program,” she said in a statement, bringing the total number of Senate Democrats who support the pact to 21.
Sen. Charles Schumer (NY) is the only Senate Democrat to come out against the deal, though Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is set to give a speech Tuesday about his stance on the agreement and is expected to become the second Democratic opponent.