Democratic Support Grows for Iran Nuclear Deal in Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Now a done deal, the Iran nuclear agreement gained critical backing from three more Democratic senators Thursday, boosting White House hopes of blocking a disapproval resolution in the Senate so the president won’t have to veto it.

Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mark Warner of Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota announced their support in quick succession for the deal that aims to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for wide relief from economic sanctions.

The announcement from Booker, in particular, was closely watched because he was under immense pressure from segments of the Jewish community in New Jersey to oppose the deal, and New Jersey’s other Democratic senator, Bob Menendez, is an outspoken opponent.

In a statement, Booker voiced deep reservations but concluded: “It is better to support a deeply flawed deal, for the alternative is worse. Thus, I will vote in support of the deal. But the United States must recognize that to make this deal work, we must be more vigilant than ever in fighting Iranian aggression.”

Warner and Heitkamp added their voices not long after.

Their announcements came a day after Senate Democrats clinched the 34 votes needed to uphold President Barack Obama’s veto, if necessary, of a resolution of disapproval that Republicans are trying to pass this month. Booker, Warner and Heitkamp made it 37 Democratic or independent senators in favor of the deal, just four short of the 41 needed to allow senators to block a final vote on the disapproval resolution in the Senate and save Obama from exercising his veto power.

For their part, opponents have been reduced to trying to prevent a filibuster of the agreement. Powerless to stop the deal, they still hope to see congressional passage of a resolution putting Congress on record against it — even with the certainty that the measure would be vetoed.

In Florida Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden offered a robust endorsement of the accord, amid speculation about his own presidential ambitions

“I tell you, I firmly believe, and I will go into some detail here, it will make us and Israel safer, not weaker,” Biden said at a round-table discussion alongside Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, who remains uncommitted on the pact.

Biden sought to allay concerns of South Florida Jewish leaders who fear Iran won too many concessions. His motorcade passed by hundreds of protesters outside a Jewish community center where he spoke.