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Texas Democrats Largely Back Obama on Iran Deal

When the time came Friday to take a vote related to President Obama's controversial nuclear deal with Iran, Texas Democrats in the U.S. House largely showed their support for the agreement.

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WASHINGTON — When the time came Friday to take a vote related to President Obama's controversial nuclear deal with Iran, Texas Democrats in the U.S. House largely showed their support for the agreement.

After Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bid to stop the deal on Thursday, members of the GOP-controlled House scheduled a vote Friday on approving the deal, which would allow crippling economic sanctions to be lifted against Iran in exchange for Tehran allowing nuclear inspectors to enter the country and limiting its uranium enrichment.

The GOP leadership held the vote, which was largely symbolic, primarily to get Democrats on the record with their support of the deal. A majority of House Democrats, 162, approved the deal, while 25 Democrats joined 244 Republicans in opposition.

Texas Democrats joining in support of the deal included U.S. Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Rubén Hinojosa of Edinburg, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth. 

But two Texas Democrats opposed the deal: U.S. Reps. Gene Green of Houston and Filemon Vela of Brownsville.  

On the other side of the aisle, Texas Republicans were united against the deal.

Jackson Lee said the Obama proposal is the best option available for dealing with Iran. 

"I think it is the most intricate deal for a pathway to making Iran non-nuclear, and for Texans who have sent some of the largest numbers of men and women to battle, I feel a special obligation to them to make the decision for peace," Jackson Lee told the Texas Tribune as she walked off the House floor after the vote.  

"If [the Iranians] are foolish enough to breach it ... we have the right scheme, the right regimen to be able to detect it," she added. 

The deal also involves Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

In a statement this week, Gene Green said that "we cannot afford to give any concessions to a country that continues to threaten the United States, our allies, and countries around the world" 

From the day the deal was announced in July, Republicans had slammed the deal and were preparing to take on legislation that would unwind the agreement. The House was largely seen as the last resort for Obama. If House Democrats splintered in their support for his policy, it was hard to see how the Senate would hold.

The hope for the Iranian deal's opponents was that Congress would reject the deal and then override a presidential veto on that legislation. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pledged in August to keep her caucus together in support of the plan, and that proved to be true Friday.

Ahead of Friday's vote, Pelosi brandished a binder at a news conference in the Capitol, saying it held every supportive statement of the deal from within her caucus. She then lovingly cradled it and jokingly said, "Like a baby ... it's always growing." 

Minutes later, the binder would grow, when Al Green publicly backed the plan. 

Despite their unified opposition to the plan, Republicans spent much of the week divided in their tactics. Senate Republicans advanced a resolution disapproving the deal. House Republicans put forth the reverse — legislation approving of the deal, knowing it was doomed to fail. The intent was to put Democrats on the record approving the deal, and two other Iran-related resolutions. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier in the week that he intended to have the Senate vote again on the disapproval measure.

House Republicans fumed that the Senate was unable to overcome the Democratic firewall there. 

"Well, we hope it's not over," U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, said, loosening his tie after Friday's vote. "We hope that what we did today jumpstarts the Senate into rethinking their next step, and I guess we're holding out eternal hope that McConnell may change some rules or have a change of heart." 

"We felt like we did the best we could to try to  send a message to the Senate, 'Please don't do this.'" 

The GOP tactical strife on this issue foretells a grueling, but exhilarating fall. Up next, the Congress must pass funding to keep the government open past Oct. 1. But a band of House conservatives is threatening to vote against the legislation unless it defunds Planned Parenthood. 

There is no obvious solution at this point to this impasse for House Speaker John Boehner, leading many in Washington to brace for a second government shutdown in two years. 

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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