PHOENIX — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the lone Republican senator who was considering support for the Iran nuclear deal, announced plans on Saturday to vote no, dealing a significant blow to the White House's efforts to garner bipartisan backing for the controversial accord.
Flake, a freshman who had praised President Barack Obama for seeking a diplomatic solution, had been publicly undecided, making him a top target of the White House's concerted lobbying campaign. Senate vote-counters had considered Flake the only truly undecided GOP vote, although his fellow Republicans had expressed confidence he would oppose it.
"I cannot vote in support of this deal," Flake said.
In a statement issued while Congress was on its annual August recess, Flake said he was concerned that the deal severely limits lawmakers' ability to sanction Iran for activities unrelated to its nuclear program. Obama has argued that multilateral sanctions under the United Nations umbrella will be lifted under the deal, but that the U.S. will retain sanctions punishing Iran for other issues such as human rights and its support for extremist groups like Hezbollah.