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President Obama just won the key Senate vote on the Iran deal

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Alex Wong/Getty

  1. On Thursday, Senate Republicans failed to garner enough support to advance a resolution disapproving President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.
  2. The 58-42 vote, in which 42 Democrats voted to filibuster the resolution, makes clear that, as expected, Congress won't be able to block the administration's implementation of the deal.
  3. All 54 Senate Republicans voted to advance the disapproval measure. They were joined by just four of the chamber's Democrats — Chuck Schumer of New York, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. That's two votes short of the 60 votes necessary to defeat a filibuster.
  4. However, even if deal opponents had picked up two more votes, President Obama had promised to veto the measure when it reached his desk. And opponents weren't even close to the margins that would be necessary to override his veto.

Iran deal opponents fell far short of the margins they needed

Though House Republicans are still squabbling about when or how they should express their disapproval of the Iran deal, Thursday's Senate outcome makes clear that opponents' long-shot attempt to block the agreement in Congress has failed.

This is no surprise. The deal was originally crafted so it could be implemented entirely through Obama's authority, without congressional approval being necessary. A bipartisan law passed and enacted earlier this year, referred to as Corker-Cardin, gave Congress an opportunity to weigh in and the potential to block Obama from the sanctions relief that's so crucial to the agreement. But to do so, they would have had to first pass a resolution of disapproval in both houses of Congress — and then override President Obama's promised veto.

That math for overriding a veto is punishingly difficult. To do so, deal opponents would have had to win over a significant number of Democrats, as this graphic shows:

How Congress could kill the Iran nuclear deal

In the end, they didn't come close to that number in the Senate. After two months of heated lobbying on both sides, just four Democrats decided to break with the president and oppose the deal — far short of the 13 that would have been necessary for a veto override.

The House hasn't voted yet, but according to the Hill's latest whip count, deal opponents look like they'll fall far short there too: 142 House Democrats have come out in favor of the deal, and only 19 have opposed it so far (well short of the 44 necessary for a veto override).

The debate over the deal will continue

The fight over the agreement in the court of public opinion, of course, isn't over. Already, the deal doesn't poll well, and majorities in both houses of Congress oppose it. Many of the Democrats who backed the deal will surely be bombarded with negative ads during their reelection campaigns. The GOP is embracing a new strategy that aims to turn the issue into "a never-ending political circus," as Max Fisher writes. There are rumblings about potential legal challenges. And some Republican presidential candidates are pledging that if elected, they'd tear up the deal.

But Obama's victory in the Senate today ensures that, for now, the deal's implementation will go forward, and that — good or bad — it will be remembered as a major part of his foreign policy legacy.