Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Sunday announced he would back the nuclear deal with Iran, a key boost that provides continued momentum for preventing Congress from blocking President Barack Obama’s pact, according to The Washington Post.
Reid said the deal, which lifts economic sanctions against the rogue nation for pledges to limit its nuclear program, is the “best way” to curtail Iran’s military ambitions, and he pledged to round up more support to thwart its opponents.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure the deal stands,” he said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post from his home in Henderson, Nevada, where he has been calling friends to tell them of his decision.
The retiring Democratic leader becomes the 27th Senate Democrat to publicly endorse the plan, while just two — including Reid’s friend and likely successor, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (NY) — have come out against it. The other Democrat who has announced he rejects the deal is Bob Menendez.
That whip count, along with many private conversations he has had with undeclared Democrats, led Reid to pronounce he was “cautiously optimistic” that he would be able to secure enough support to prevent an override of Obama’s veto of a resolution opposing the deal.
An override would require opponents mustering 13 Democrats to join all 54 Republicans in opposition to the president.
Reid had been holding off on announcing his stance on the deal and had indicated he intends to talk with influential Jewish backers before deciding.
Reid said on Sunday he was “still hopeful” that at least 41 Democrats would support Obama, which would suffocate the resolution in a filibuster and not require a presidential veto.
He acknowledged that he has been supportive of the deal for many weeks now, holding regular conversations with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on the details of the deal and the congressional review process.
“This is the best way, the only way, to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Reid said Sunday.
He rejected the assertions from Schumer and other longtime supporters of Israel that the deal does not guarantee global investigators enough access to sites where Iran has worked on nuclear development.
“We don’t disagree on much, but we disagree on this,” he said of Schumer, according to The Washington Post.
He cast Schumer’s opposition as a “vote of conscience” that would not harm his standing in the Democratic caucus, even though a vast majority support the deal.