Obama's Iran deal continues to look safe, despite opposition

Hoyer: Voting against Iran deal would not be 'path to war'
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Hoyer: Voting against Iran deal would not be 'path to war' 01:55

Story highlights

  • On Monday, Obama picked up another Democratic supporter when Sen. Brian Schatz came out in support of the deal.
  • "This was one of the most difficult decisions that I had to make," Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
  • House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said the meetings in Israel did not allay any of his concerns with the deal.

(CNN)While President Barack Obama is in Martha's Vineyard, 22 House Democrats are in Israel being lobbied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to oppose the Iran deal.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, speaking in Israel with CNN on Monday, said he still hasn't made up his mind on the deal -- and neither have the 21 other House Democrats on the trip -- but that he believes the President could have negotiated a better deal and conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reinforced concerns he has.
"I intend to go back and spend a week with my family, but after that to give this very careful consideration, because I think it's one of the more important decisions that I will be asked to make as a member of Congress," Hoyer said.
    Despite the undecided Democrats on the trip and the high-profile opposition of the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, Chuck Schumer, announced last week, the President can still probably breathe easy on his vacation when it comes to the votes needed to on his legacy-sealing agreement curbing Tehran's nuclear program.
    If all House Republicans voted to override the veto, they'd still need to convince 44 Democrats to join the effort to succeed. As of Monday, nine have officially said they would vote no, and 146 voting House Democrats out of the 188-member caucus signed a letter in May supporting the Iran negotiations before a deal was reached. None of those signatories have yet come out against the deal. In the Senate, a united GOP would need six Democrats to clear a procedural hurdle and 13 to override a veto, and only Schumer has publicly said he would oppose the deal.
    On Monday, Obama picked up another Democratic supporter when Sen. Brian Schatz came out in support of the deal. The Hawaii Democrat put out a statement extolling the deal and the impediments it places on Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons.
    "While there are legitimate concerns about the agreement, we must remember this plain fact: There is no other alternative that achieves these results," Schatz said in a statement. "We do not have the luxury of being able to pick this deal apart."
    Schatz had been expected to support the deal.
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    Though Schumer was also largely expected to oppose the deal, as the powerful Jewish lawmaker from New York has a strong constituency that is against it, his detailed and public announcement on the eve of the first Republican debate last Thursday caught some Democrats off guard. They had expected Schumer to wait until much closer to a vote on the bill when lawmakers return in September to make his opposition official.
    On Monday, Schumer made his first public remarks since the announcement, calling it one of the hardest decisions he's wrestled with.
    "This was one of the most difficult decisions that I had to make. I studied it long and hard, read the agreement a whole bunch of times ... had many, many, many meetings and interviews with people on both sides including three classified briefings," Schumer said. "When it is such a difficult decision, as this one has been, you have to study it carefully, come up with a conclusion ... not let pressure, politics or party influence your decision and then do the right thing as one sees it."
    Obama may not be in the clear just yet, as the skepticism of some of the lawmakers visiting Israel this week has made clear. The trip was organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, the charitable arm of the lobbying powerhouse American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Israel is a vociferous opponent of the Iran deal, as the nation that is arguably most threatened by a nuclear Iran.
    Democrats wrapped up their weeklong visit on Monday, with three dozen Republicans arriving for their own trip the same day.
    Hoyer said the meetings did not allay any of his concerns with the deal.
    "I think that in some respects, they resonated those concerns," Hoyer said. "I think the concerns are pretty universal, and the president would say, 'Yes, I have those concerns myself, but this is not a perfect answer, but this is the best answer at this time.'"
    It's unclear if Schumer and other opposing Dems will try to win other senators to his cause -- and Obama also picked up some supporters last week who took the Senate floor to plug the deal. Democrats Tim Kaine of Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, Patrick Leahy of Vermont; Barbara Boxer of California and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, as well as Democratic-caucusing Independent Angus King of Maine, all announced their support last week.
    Even if the Republican-controlled Congress passes legislation disapproving of the deal, Obama is expected to veto it, requiring two-thirds of both chambers to vote against the deal. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has pledged "strong support" for the deal and Senate No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin is whipping up support in the Senate.