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Sen. Barbara Mikulski during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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34th Senator Backs Iran Deal, Ensuring its Passage

Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski pushes deal over the finish line

by
Yair Rosenberg
September 02, 2015
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Sen. Barbara Mikulski during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Yesterday, we reported that the Iran deal was “a done deal” after two prominent pro-Israel Senate stalwarts–Delaware’s Chris Coons and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey–came out in support. Today, it’s official. Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski has backed the deal, giving President Obama the 34 votes needed to sustain a veto of any congressional measure of disapproval.

“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. However, Congress must also reaffirm our commitment to the safety and security of Israel.”

Mikulski is retiring from her Senate seat, and it seems likely that this is why she was chosen by the deal backers to be the deciding vote. As she is not standing for reelection, she does not need to worry about any subsequent voter backlash against her role.

With the momentum shifted decidedly in the deal’s favor, it seems likely that other fence-sitting lawmakers will now come out in support. Deal opponents will need to scramble to see if they can muster 60 of the Senate’s 100 votes to pass a measure of disapproval. Otherwise, deal backers will be able to filibuster and prevent any vote, thus obviating the need for a presidential veto.

At the same time, as news of the deal’s all-but-inevitable passage reaches Israel, expect Israeli politicians to attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his decidedly failed campaign to derail it. Between delivering his controversial congressional speech and directing pro-Israel groups to spend massive amounts of money and political capital, it now appears that Netanyahu had Israel and its backers fall on their swords for little discernible gain. His domestic opposition will surely attempt to capitalize off this failure in the days ahead.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.