Three Democratic senators announced their support of the Iran nuclear agreement on Thursday.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) each issued lengthy statements outlining how the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action came to garner their support, though all registered concerns with the deal. Booker went so far as to call the agreement the “better of two flawed options.”
In a statement published on medium.com, the junior senator from New Jersey wrote, “This deal, while falling short of permanently eliminating Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, succeeds in either delaying it or giving us the credible ability to detect significant cheating on their part and respond accordingly.”
Warner similarly stated that the agreement kept Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and though the deal is not perfect, he did not see a “superior” alternative.
Said Warner in a statement, “While I choose to support the deal, I am not satisfied with it as a final measure and will support efforts to shore-up its weaker points.”
That includes, Warner said, clarifying Congress’ ability to pass sanctions against Iran for its destabilizing activities in the region and that no “grandfather clause” would impede the United States and its partners from re-imposing sanctions on foreign firms should Iran violate the agreement.
All three senators argued that unilateral sanctions will not be enough to deter Iran.
Heitkamp, who sits on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs said in a press release that the sanctions on Iran will not be lifted until “Iran takes strong, specific and verifiable steps — certified by the IAEA — to meet its obligations under the agreement.”
She concluded, “It is my judgment that this deal is our best chance at preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and keeping Americans safe. It isn’t a perfect deal, but it is a good one.”
The series of announcements came a day after Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) became the 34th Senate Democrat to back the deal, giving President Barack Obama the votes he needs to sustain a promised veto of a resolution of disapproval. Proponents of the deal are now pushing to get 41 senators to support the agreement in the hopes of blocking a Senate vote against the deal when Congress returns from summer recess.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a statement Wednesday evening that the House will consider a resolution of disapproval on the Iran deal next week.
Booker’s vote puts him at odds with his colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and longtime friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The rabbi, who has known Booker since his days at Oxford University, had called upon Booker to oppose the deal in a series of op-eds and in a recent press conference alongside New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.
Booker wrote that he had studied Iran’s past efforts to “illicitly obtain a nuclear weapon and the evil nature and horrific extent of its support and sponsorship of terrorism, its destabilizing involvement in ongoing regional conflicts, and its destructive hatred and determination to destroy the United States and our ally Israel.”
Looking ahead, Booker argued the United States should bolster interdiction of illicit arms to Iran and its terrorist proxies in the Middle East, including Hezbollah and Hamas. To deter Iran from cheating, Booker called on the United States to shore up Israel’s qualitative military edge by giving the Israelis access to the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound “bunker buster” bomb.
“To be clear: when Iranians chant death to America or pledge themselves to the destruction of Israel, I take them at their word,” wrote Booker. “My Jewish friends and others I have talked with are correct: Iran is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people.”
Warner echoed Booker’s call, saying in a statement, “I will look for ways to strengthen our commitments to Israel, and I will support additional efforts to stop Iran from advancing a nuclear agenda, or engaging in other efforts to destabilize the region.”