Among Texas Democrats, No Clear Consensus on Iran Deal

When Texas Democratic House members return to the nation's capital next week, they will be hit with a firestorm of a debate: the Iran deal.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, urges Texas leaders to accept Medicaid expansion as U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and then-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro listen on April 1, 2013.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday secured enough Senate support to avoid a congressional dismantling of his Iran deal. Even so, when Texas Democratic members of the U.S. House return to the nation's capital next week, they are poised to face a firestorm of a debate.

From the moment Obama announced his deal with Iran, it became a consuming flashpoint in congressional politics. Republicans howled and united in opposition, and many Democrats were — and continue to be — anxious. Congress is expected to take up legislation soon that could undermine the deal.

Groups opposing the deal are lobbying Democratic members from New York and Florida who represent districts with large Jewish populations, hoping they will vote their constituents' wishes and defy the president. While no Texas district has a similar demographic makeup, the issue is wrenching enough that more than half of the Texas House Democrats are still on the fence. 

Over and over, undecided Democrats from Texas and elsewhere say they are studying the deal and will make decisions when they return to Washington. 

On Wednesday, Obama secured the support of enough Senate Democrats to prevent Republicans from upending the deal in that chamber. While the GOP majority in the Senate will probably pass a resolution rejecting the deal, Obama now has enough support to sustain a likely veto.

But amid early doubt over whether Obama would secure such support, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has methodically worked during the August recess to lock down Democratic votes for the deal in the House and protect a potential Obama veto. 

So far, five of the 11 Democrats in the Texas delegation have voiced support for it: U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Austin; Rubén Hinojosa of Edinburg, Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, Joaquin Castro of San Antonio and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas. 

Six Democrats have said they are undecided: U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Al Green of Houston, Gene Green of Houston, Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Filemon Vela of Brownsville. So far, no Texas Democrat has declared opposition to the deal. 

From the early days of the debate, Doggett joined the effort to secure Democratic support for Obama's deal. 

"The choice is clear — war or peace," Doggett said in a Wednesday statement. "I believe that those colleagues, whom I began meeting with last year to encourage diplomacy, remain committed to peace."

"We have the votes to sustain a veto and begin implementing the strong inspection and verification provisions of this agreement," he added. 

But some of his delegation remains publicly undecided. 

"I have not come to a conclusion, as I am still meeting with constituents and reviewing materials," Al Green said in a statement, echoing comments from other fence-sitting lawmakers. 

Republicans, who are uniformly against the deal, will not be expected to muster any support for Obama next week. But some say there could be a silver lining if the deal goes through: a lift of Iranian economic sanctions gives advocates for lifting the United States' own crude oil export ban another argument for their effort. 

Many Texans back lifting the ban, but Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is the most powerful person on Capitol Hill in favor of lifting the ban. 

“We are letting Iran export its oil to markets that we prevent our own companies from accessing,” Murkowski said this summer. “Any deal that lifts sanctions on Iranian oil will disadvantage American companies unless we lift the antiquated ban on our own oil exports.”