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On Iran Nuclear Pact, Undecided Senators Dwindling

  • Michael Bowman

As U.S. lawmakers prepare to return to Washington from a month-long recess, a flurry of senators have announced their positions on the international nuclear accord with Iran. The pact has more than enough support to survive, but still lacks the backing required to prevent Congress from passing an initial resolution of disapproval.

“Frankly, this is not the agreement I hoped for. I have serious concerns based on Iran’s past behavior of cheating on nuclear agreements," said Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

He is not wildly enthusiastic about the Iran nuclear deal. But, like most Democrats, he supports it anyway.

“We cannot trust Iran, but this deal, based on distrust, verification, deterrence, and strong, principled multilateral diplomacy, offers us the best opportunity to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," he said.

In recent days, five other Democratic senators issued similar statements of support despite misgivings. New Jersey's Cory Booker said “It is better to support a deeply flawed deal, for the alternative is far worse.” Mark Warner of Virginia said, “While I choose to support the deal, I am not satisfied with it.”

Until Friday, only one Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, had announced opposition to the deal. Since then, he has been joined by Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

“We know that, despite the fact that Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, that they have violated the international will as expressed by various U.N. Security Council resolutions, and by deceit, deception and delay advanced their program to the point of being a threshold nuclear state," said Menendez.

Given unified Republican opposition to the accord, all eyes are on the remaining handful of Democratic senators yet to announce. Already, there is ample backing to sustain President Barack Obama’s promised veto of a resolution of disapproval from Congress. The undecided senators will determine whether Senate action can be blocked altogether.

“If that happens, the resolution of disapproval won’t reach the president’s desk, and there will be no need to exercise the veto. That’s a tough goal but a possible one," said former U.S. Ambassador Norman Eisen of the Brookings Institution.

An initial vote in the House of Representatives could come by week’s end.