Washington – Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday became one of the last U.S. senators to announce he will support a historic nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States and other industrialized nations.
“My two paramount goals have been to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and do so by peaceful means,” Blumenthal said. “I believe the proposed agreement, using diplomacy, not military force, is the best path now available to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Under the deal, Iran would put its nuclear program on hold in return for the easing of economic sanctions.
Blumenthal’s support is a boon to the White House, which was trying to win support from a few remaining undecided Democratic senators. President Obama appears to have succeeded.
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., said they would back the deal.
Those 41 Senate Democrats who support the deal, may give Obama enough votes in the Senate to block a resolution of disapproval scheduled for a vote in both houses of Congress this week.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. , an early supporter of the Iran agreement, said “the jury is still out” as to whether all 41 will support a filibuster.
Murphy also said “it is important to stop (the resolution) before it gets to the president’s desk.”
Blumenthal said the decision “has been a difficult one for me,” made on “the basis of conscience and conviction.”
“While this is not the agreement I would have accepted at the negotiating table, it is better than no deal at all,” he said.
“Rejecting this agreement is fraught with unacceptable risk,” Blumenthal said. “Our formal negotiation partners and allies have signaled clearly that they are not coming back to the table – a point confirmed in my conversations and meetings. There is no better deal available now.” (Read his full statement here.)
Blumenthal, however, said the would introduce legislation with a Senate Democrat who opposes the Iran deal, Ben Cardin of Maryland, that would, among other things, strengthen the “snap-back” policies regarding sanctions, enhance security assistance to Israel, and strengthen oversight of the agreement.
Last week the White House secured support from enough Senate Democrats to ensure Congress could not override a veto of the deal.
But Obama hoped to win support of additional Democrats to deny the GOP the 60 votes they need to pass the resolution in the Senate later this week. Nearly all Senate Republicans will vote for the resolution.
Four Democratic senators said they would, too. They are Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Robert Menendez, D-N.J.,Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Cardin.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he spoke to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about procedural issues concerning the resolution.
“As he has noted many times in the past, everything of importance in the Senate requires 60 votes. So passage will require 60 votes,” Reid said.
Blumenthal’s decision makes support of the Iran deal in Connecticut’s congressional delegation unanimous.
Nevertheless, the resolution of disapproval is expected to pass in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
The United States and the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany struck a deal with Tehran on Iran’s nuclear program on July 14 in Vienna. On July 20 the UN Security Council adopted a resolution endorsing the deal.
The other signers of the pact are moving forward on the deal, dropping sanctions and re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran. But Congress approved legislation that would allow lawmakers to block U.S. implementation of the agreement.
“The present sanctions will soon become unenforceable, producing an economic windfall for Iran whether or not the United States accepts the agreement,” Blumenthal said. “The United States, instead of Iran, would be isolated.”
Lobbying over the Iran deal in Washington is intense, with former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman a high-profile opponent of the deal as the new head of United Against Nuclear Iran. Israel and it’s allies, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, fought vigorously against the agreement.
Both sides of the issue tried to influence Blumenthal, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising both for and against the agreement running on Connecticut television stations this summer.
Blumenthal’s Republican opponent, August Wolf, also ran a cable TV ad that focused attention on whether Blumenthal would support the Iran deal.
“We can’t trust the Iranian terrorist regime with nuclear weapons,” Wolf says in the ad.
On Tuesday, Wolf issued a statement blasting Blumenthal’s decision.
“Blumenthal is either dangerously naive, or a complete Washington Weasel. Frankly, both descriptions fit this guy,” Wolf said.