Nuclear deal gets boost from Democrats
Four Democrats, including one who represents an American hostage in Iran, said Thursday they would support the Iran nuclear deal in a major boost for President Barack Obama.
“It’s very clear to me that the agreement is the best path forward,” Rep. Dan Kildee, who counts hostage Amir Hekmati as a constituent, told The Associated Press in an interview. “This agreement allows us to prevent (Iran) from gaining a nuclear weapon, and if they cheat, we will know it. If we don’t have the agreement, we don’t have that certainty.”
Hekmati, an American, has been held in Iran since 2011. Kildee said he has told President Barack Obama and Hekmati’s relatives about his decision to back the international agreement, which calls on Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a Senate candidate, said he would support the agreement, calling it “the best path to achieve our goal of ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”
A former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Hekmati was visiting his ailing grandmother in 2011 when he was arrested on suspicion of spying. He was charged in January 2012 with espionage and sentenced to death. His family denies the charge. He is one of four Americans held by Iran.
Democratic Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. David Price, a Democrat, also announced their support for the agreement, a boost for Obama amid a week of furious lobbying on Capitol Hill.
“We have a choice between this deal or no deal” to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, Udall said from the Senate floor. “I do not believe we will get another chance.”
Their statements come after multiple White House meetings this week between Obama and House Democrats, intended to counter an intense lobbying effort by AIPAC, which is behind a multimillion-dollar ad campaign. The pro-Israel lobby argues that Iran cannot be trusted. Obama and his allies say there is no alternative to the deal other than to let Iran proceed unsupervised.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, who has criticized the accord, reiterated his demand that the Obama administration turn over documents related to agreements between the IAEA and Iran that he described as “side agreements.” Secretary of State John Kerry has said there are no side agreements relevant to the accord.
The Republican-led Congress is in the midst of a 60-day review of the deal and is expected to vote in September on a resolution of disapproval that Obama has vowed to veto. The administration’s goal is to ensure it has enough Democratic votes to sustain the veto.
Obama has aggressively courted Democrats, holding sessions at the White House and sending Cabinet members to Capitol Hill for briefings and hearings.