Senate Democrats banded together and blocked a resolution disapproving the landmark nuclear agreement between the U.S., Iran and five other nations on Thursday, and in doing so handed President Obama a major foreign policy victory.
The procedural vote fell two votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed. The significance of the vote is that the controversial accord, which lifts sanctions on Tehran in exchange for Iran curtailing its nuclear program, will be enacted without a major showdown between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress.
As NPR's Ailsa Chang reported on All Things Considered Thursday:
"Senate Democrats knew going into this debate that they were going to win the fight. The only decision before them was a luxurious one: When should they make their move? Should it be before or after a measure to reject the Iran deal gets to the president's desk? Today, Democrats chose to kill the measure, so Obama would never have to veto it."
The final vote tally was 58-42. Four Senate Democrats joined with 54 Republicans who voted to move forward. As NPR's It's All Politics blog explained, the vote was unusual because "instead of voting on whether to approve the Iran deal, opponents tried to bring forward a disapproval resolution."
Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted his Democratic colleagues, asking why they are protecting the president from having to issue a veto.
"The president's proud of the deal. I don't know why he'd be reluctant to veto a resolution of disapproval that's put on his desk," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "I don't know what they're protecting him from. I think he'd have a veto ceremony and invite all you guys to join him."
McConnell vowed to bring the resolution up for another vote. Congress has another week before the deal automatically takes effect.