WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and backers of the Iran nuclear deal have picked up an important ally in the Senate: Senator Amy Klobuchar announced her intent to support the deal in a statement released Monday afternoon.
Acknowledging she faced a “difficult decision,” Klobuchar said that the deal is “our best available option to put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and that is why I will support it…If we were to reject this agreement, Iran would be able to continue all of its destabilizing activities while continuing its pursuit of the most destructive weapon in the world.”
Klobuchar argued that the deal prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, keeps U.S. options open, and that rejecting it would jeopardize international partnerships.
The senator’s announcement was a spot of good news for those supportive of the Iran deal. In the last week, prominent congressional Democrats announced their opposition to the deal: the Senate’s number two Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, said he couldn’t support it, as did the House’s number two Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland. The deal’s opponents — mainly Republicans — took it as proof Obama’s deal was heading toward defeat in Congress.
With Klobuchar’s support, the White House has 18 of the 33 votes in the Senate that it needs to keep the deal alive. If Democrats fail to reach that threshold, Obama will be unable to veto the expected resolution of disapproval of the agreement. Lobbying groups such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, have said they will meet with each member of Congress to push a no vote, and have spent millions of dollars on the effort.
Still publicly undecided is Sen. Al Franken, though he has signalled he’ll eventually support the deal. According to D.C. newspaper The Hill, a total of 20 Senate Democrats remain undecided. It’s unclear if Klobuchar — who, as Chair of the Democratic Steering Committee, is a top party leader — will play a role in persuading colleagues to vote for the deal. In her careful statement, the senator specifically mentioned she would push for increased assistance to Israel and other allies, and urge her colleagues to do the same. She did not say she would persuade colleagues to vote for the deal.
Congress has until September 17 to vote on the deal. Lawmakers return from the summer recess on September 8.