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Letter From Obama Wins Congressman's Support For Iran Deal


Congress will vote next month on a resolution of disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, and there's one lobbyist who isn't having any trouble getting his calls returned - President Obama, who, of course, wants to block that resolution. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The Obama administration's efforts to win over members of Congress on the Iran deal notched a big victory today. Congressman Jerry Nadler, Democrat from New York, said in a lengthy and detailed written statement he'll support the deal. Here he is in an interview with WNYC.


JERRY NADLER: This deal is far from perfect, to put it mildly. There are a lot of problems with the deal. The question is, could you get a better deal if you went back to the negotiating table? Or, more to the point, could you force Iran back to the negotiating table and get a better deal? My conclusion was you could not.

KEITH: Before Nadler made up his mind, he spoke with opponents and constituents, had numerous meetings with members of President Obama's Cabinet and even a one-on-one discussion with the president himself. This week Obama sent Nadler a letter offering reassurances about how the nuclear deal would be enforced and committing support for allies in the Middle East. Congressman Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

ADAM SCHIFF: You name it, the administration is doing a full-court press.

KEITH: According to the White House, the president has met with almost a hundred members of Congress, either individually or in small groups, since the agreement was announced. Schiff, who supports the deal, says members are taking note.

SCHIFF: For those who have raised genuine concerns, I think the administration is engaged with them at a very intimate level and trying to meet them, and it's a level of commitment and personal dialogue that I don't think we've seen from the White House in many years.

KEITH: Republican leaders in the House and Senate plan to take up measures next month aimed at blocking the deal. So far, there aren't any Republicans who support the deal. The real question is about the Democrats. While there have been some high-profile announcements of opposition, it looks like President Obama is well on his way to lining up enough support. Ian Swanson is managing editor of The Hill newspaper, which is tracking likely votes.

IAN SWANSON: It's not clear that it's going to pass the Senate because in the Senate they're going to need 60 votes to get it through a filibuster and they only have 56 right now.

KEITH: Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been reaching out to fellow senators about what he describes as a decision of conscience. Corker is critical of the way the White House has handled critiques of the Iran deal.

BOB CORKER: You know, there's been no real attempt to generate understanding by the White House. There's only been an attempt to - as you've seen on multiple occasions - for them to subject those who disagree with them to personal criticism.

KEITH: Corker remains deeply concerned about the deal but says he always knew blocking it would be a heavy lift. Both he and even those who support the deal say the discussion and concern doesn't end with next month's Congressional vote. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.