Coons to vote for Iran nuclear deal

DOVER — U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., announced Tuesday he supports the Iran nuclear deal.

With his vote, the Obama White House needs just one more senator to sustain a veto on an expected Republican rejection.

Admitting the deal was not as strong as he would like, Sen. Coons nonetheless proclaimed his support, saying he didn’t know what the path forward would be if the United States rejected the proposal.

Delaware’s senior senator, Democrat Tom Carper, announced Thursday he also backs the agreement.

The deal, its supporters insist, would impose limits on Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions.

The agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed July 14 by the United States, other world powers and Iran.

Before it gains official U.S. approval, however, it must go through Congress. With a Republican majority in the House and Senate, the proposal is expected to be voted down.

However, President Obama, a Democrat, would then veto that decision, sending the agreement back to Congress. Lawmakers would need a two-thirds majority vote to override the veto.

In the Senate, Republicans would have to sway 13 Democrats. So far, just two Democratic senators — New York’s Chuck Schumer and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez — have announced their opposition to the deal, while 33 are backing it.

If one more senator signs on to support the agreement, President Obama would be able to sustain a veto.
Congress will vote this month.

Sen. Coons announced his decision Tuesday afternoon at the University of Delaware. He had publicly expressed reservations about the agreement and had been seen as someone who could vote with Republicans partly out of concern the deal could be a threat to Israel.

“Ultimately, after consulting with financial and policy experts, I’m convinced that the potential turmoil for our key alliances in Europe and Asia and the uncertainty of the outcome of forcing our reluctant allies back to the table are not worth the uncertain possibility that we could secure a stronger deal.

“Thus, in a very hard choice between either rejecting the agreement and taking on the uncertainty and risks of compelling a return to sanctions and negotiations or a path that accepts the positives of this deal and attempts to manage and minimize the short- and long-term consequences of its flaws, I choose the latter,” he said.

“I will support this agreement and vote against any measures to disapprove it in Congress,” he added.

Sen. Coons, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, spoke for about 30 minutes in a room of media members and others.

After reading prepared remarks, he took questions from reporters.

While the agreement “does not dismantle or destroy” Iran’s nuclear program, it is the best deal available, and accepting it helps set the world on a path toward peace, he claimed.

He said he had met with many experts, diplomats and Delawareans in the past months, as well as with President Obama.

Sen. Coons also attempted to assuage concerns he has heard from many who are aligned with Israel, which opposes the deal.

“I want to close my remarks today by addressing the supporters of Israel and my many friends in the Jewish community who have spoken with me directly about this deal — some in support, but many others in opposition,” he said. “As a strong supporter of Israel, I know the risks Israelis and Israel face every day in a region surrounded by enemies.”

Sen. Coons claimed he was still grappling with the decision Monday night.

He ended his speech by thanking constituents for sharing their thoughts.

“I am voting to support this agreement not because I think it is perfect or because I believe it is the mechanism to end nuclear proliferation in the region,” he said. “I am voting for this agreement because it is our most credible opportunity to lead a global community in containing an existential threat while preserving America’s ability to use economic power and military might to successfully dismantle a nuclear program should diplomacy fail.”

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