In about two weeks, Congress is expected to vote on whether to back the deal regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons proposal. Congressional Democrats are beginning to announce their positions, while most Republicans, including those in Colorado, appear firmly against it.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-CO, announced yesterday he would support the Obama administration-backed deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Perlmutter’s decision formalizes earlier comments that he was likely to support the deal announced by the Obama administration on July 14. Congress has 60 days from the President’s announcement to review the deal and to vote it up or down, which puts the vote at around September 14 or sooner.
In a statement issued this morning, Perlmutter said the United States and its international partners “have committed to a diplomatic solution that I believe reduces and limits Iran’s ability to develop or manufacture nuclear weapons and is in America’s best interests. This Agreement should also reduce nuclear tensions in the Middle East and will make our friend and ally, Israel, safer and less prone to nuclear conflict with Iran.”
Perlmutter said he reached his decision after reading and re-reading the agreement, discussing it with those who support and oppose it, and “listening to military and diplomatic experts, friends, family and constituents.”
The other two Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation have been slow to say where they stand on the issue. Rep. Diane DeGette told The Colorado Independent Wednesday that she would announce her position before the end of the summer recess.
Rep. Jared Polis said he still is evaluating the deal and taking technical advice on it. He told The Independent Wednesday that he is perhaps a week or two from announcing whether he will support the deal or not. Given its significance for national security, “it’s important that members of Congress and senators do their homework,” he said.
Republicans in the Colorado delegation appear to be unanimous in their opposition. Republican Rep. Ken Buck told The Independent Wednesday that “we’re giving the foremost state sponsor of terrorism $100 billion to $200 billion. It’s a huge mistake. We will see Iran with a nuclear weapon long before the deadlines said to be in the treaty and they will find reason to blame us and go ahead and make the weapon.”
Buck said that once Iran has the weapon, it will mean “catastrophic” proliferation throughout the Mideast, with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan also gaining a nuclear weapon.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO, also opposes the deal but did not comment on the record for The Independent. Rep. Doug Lamborn also is on record opposing the deal and Rep. Scott Tipton has said he would oppose any deal that “compromises the safety and security of the United States and our allies.”
The $100 billion that Iran would gain from the deal refers to the amount of Iranian assets tied up in international banks under economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Treasury. The money comes from sales of Iranian oil; the country has been able to sell its oil but has been unable to get the revenue from those sales.
President Obama said the deal, known as a comprehensive joint operating action plan, would permanently prohibit Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb,” he said, in a speech on August 5. “It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program…it achieves one of our most critical security objectives.”
In exchange, Iran will eventually gain relief from United Nations Security Council economic sanctions that have been in place since 2006. The sanctions will not be lifted, according to the White House, until Iran completes key steps related to verification, steps that the White House estimate will take up to a year to complete. In addition, if Iran refuses to hold up its end of the deal, those sanctions can immediately be snapped back into place by the United States.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate are preparing a resolution to block the deal, and according to Politico, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, may attempt a filibuster to prevent that vote. However, should the vote take place and pass, the President can veto it and it appears he has enough votes to prevent a veto override.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-CO, is already on board as opposing the deal. He and 47 other Republican senators sent Iran a letter in March that stated they would oppose any agreement with Iran.
Colorado’s senior senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, has not yet announced where he stands on the agreement. That has produced criticism from conservatives such as Jonathan Lockwood of Advancing Colorado, who said that Bennet was okay with Reid’s “playing politics” on the Senate vote.
“Sen. Michael Bennet will be a key vote on the disapproval of the Iran Deal, and he seems to have no problem with Sen. Harry Reid ‘playing politics,’ while he sits silently on the sidelines. Coloradans deserve to know where Bennet stands. Iran’s mission is to extend jihad across the face of the world and nothing could be more dangerous than empowering them and playing politics with this foolish, sinister deal.”
While Bennet’s official position on the deal has not been announced, he did criticize the 48 Republicans who signed the March letter, calling it “counterproductive.”
Jews in Colorado and nationwide are split over the deal.
A poll released Tuesday said that Colorado Jews strongly support the deal. According to Washington, DC-based J Street, 62 percent of the 400 Jewish voters polled supported the deal, with 33 percent opposed and the rest undecided.
“This poll provides yet more evidence that despite the $40 million being spent by the other side, Jewish voters continue to support the agreement and a diplomatic path to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.
But Jeremy Shaver, assistant director for Mountain States Region of the Anti-Defamation League, said the ADL opposes the deal and is urging Congress to vote “no” on it.
The ADL has questions about the deal and “we don’t feel those questions have been satisfactorily answered,” Shaver said Thursday. One of them is whether the deal involves strategic partnerships for containing Iran within the region, which the deal doesn’t provide, he said. In addition, even with the deal, Iran will still be a nuclear threshold state.
A poll of 1,035 Jewish voters conducted in late July by Illinois-based McKeon & Associates showed they reject the deal by a 2:1 margin. The agreement also is opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond, Creative Commons, Flickr.