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Kerry defends Iran deal as GOP fails to muster votes to uphold veto

With Sen. Barbara Mikulski's support for the Iran deal, the GOP is unlikely to be able to block the agreement

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered his most sweeping defense of the Iranian nuclear deal during a speech in Philadelphia on Wednesday, reiterating that the international agreement is the world’s best hope for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Just prior to Kerry’s speech, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., became the 34th senator to come out in favor of the agreement, all but ensuring that the Iran deal will go into effect.

Kerry’s remarks came on the cusp of a heated, partisan battle in Congress over whether lawmakers should pass a resolution endorsing or rejecting the deal. Votes are expected to begin when lawmakers return from their summer recess next week.

With Mikulski’s support, early tallies of lawmakers show that the Obama administration has enough votes to uphold a veto against a resolution to reject the agreement, if the GOP-controlled Congress passes one later this month.

“No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime," Mikulski said in a statement. "I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal." 

Ideally, the Obama administration is hoping for 41 Democratic senators to back the deal — enough to filibuster legislation that would block the agreement — so the president does not have to issue a veto at all.

Speaking at the National Constitution Center, Kerry argued that the United States’ standing in the world would be diminished if lawmakers rejected a deal that the nation had spent 20 months championing and negotiating with its international partners, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

"Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran, it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling that most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend," Kerry said. "It's hard to conceive of a quicker or more self-destructive blow to our nation's credibility and leadership — not only with respect to this one issue, but across the board, economically, politically, militarily, even morally. We would pay an immeasurable price for this unilateral reversal.”

Addressing opposition from Israel and a segment of the politically powerful Jewish-American community, Kerry further insisted that the agreement would bring more stability to the Middle East, instead of less, and emphasized the administration’s commitment to Israel's security.  

“It will remove a looming threat from a uniquely fragile region and reassure the world that the hardest problems in the world can be addressed through diplomacy,” he said. "I take a back seat to no one in my commitment to the security of Israel.”

Even without the votes needed to block the deal, Congressional Republicans have vowed to fight on.

“Forcing a bad deal, over the objections of the American people and a majority in Congress, is no win for President Obama,” said Cory Fitz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “The White House may have convinced just enough Democrats to back an agreement that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program, trusts the regime to self-inspect and offers amnesty to terrorists, but this deal is far from being implemented.”

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