GEORGETOWN — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he hoped Congress could override a veto of a resolution that disapproves of President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with the Iranians, but he acknowledged the president still had "a great likelihood of success."
In remarks to the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, McConnell said he hoped "to have a respectful, uplifting debate" when the Senate returns to vote on the resolution.
But McConnell, who repeatedly has called the deal with the Iranians "flawed," cautioned that Democrats could sustain a veto of the resolution Republicans will offer when they return to work in September "by getting one-third plus one."
With U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., saying over the weekend that he wouldn't support the deal, McConnell said he didn't think a single Republican would support Obama's efforts.
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Talking to reporters after the event, McConnell was asked whether he was resigned to the idea that Obama was likely to have enough Democratic support to sustain the veto and go ahead with the deal.
"I hope not, but what I'm pretty confident of is sustaining the veto will be an entirely Democratic exercise," McConnell said. "Sen. (Charles) Schumer coming out against the deal was helpful. I hope we can defeat it, but the procedure is obviously stacked in the president's favor. And we'll see."
Schumer is a Democrat from New York.
McConnell said he did not speak with Flake, whom the White House had hoped to win over, but he did say he was "pleased that he finally reached the same conclusion the rest of us did, that it was not in America's best interest to support it."
McConnell also said the next president could review Obama's executive agreement with Iran in a year and a half.
Even though he opposes the deal, McConnell said he doesn't think the agreement will derail the U.S.' long-standing alliance with Israel.
"The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is very strong, and it's not going to change as a result of this," McConnell said. "But I think the prime minister of Israel has got it right — this is a very, very bad deal."
The senator made only brief mentions of the 2016 presidential race, declining to answer a reporter's question about the rise of Donald Trump, but he did tell the crowd he thought the eventual Republican nominee would be able to make a good case that voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton would amount to a third term for Obama.
McConnell, as he has in recent months, declared the era of dysfunction in the Senate over, but the turmoil within the Senate Republican caucus was not lost on the audience.
One person in the crowd asked McConnell about Sen. Ted Cruz's allegation that McConnell lied to him about plans to vote on reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. McConnell said there would be no rebuttal coming.
"Look, I've got four members of the Republican conference running for president," McConnell said, and "every one of them is trying to figure out some way to break out of the pack.
"It's sort of a 'look at me' thing, and I'm not going to get into responding to any of them. They all are free to say whatever they choose to."
McConnell did remind the crowd that he had "been elected leader of my party in the Senate five times without opposition."
After a pause, McConnell said, "I rest my case."