WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Monday that she supports the Iran nuclear deal — a decision she says she made after spending the past month weighing the consequences and talking to nuclear experts across the country.
Klobuchar’s support for the deal came as White House officials continued a relentless effort to urge members of Congress, away on August recess, to commit to voting yes on the deal when they return to Capitol Hill next month.
She was previously undecided on the agreement, saying a couple weeks ago she needed more time to study the nuances and think about what was at stake for the United States.
“I really came to the decision that while the Iranian regime was clearly involved in some really bad things … including human rights abuses … I think it would be a lot worse if they had a nuclear weapon,” she said Monday. “So it’s a hard point to get to because you can’t go into it thinking they are going to be our friends. You have to go at it thinking this is a bad situation and how can we stop it from getting worse.”
Congress will vote on the deal next month. President Obama has said he would veto a bill rejecting the proposal from both chambers. It would take a two-thirds majority — or at least 13 Senate Democrats and 44 in the House if members voted roughly along party lines — to override that veto.
In a briefing at the White House with reporters Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he respected the decisionmaking process each senator and member of the House is embarking on over the five-week break from Capitol Hill.
“We’re treating every senator equally importantly here. Every vote is important,” he said. “I spent 28 plus years … in the Senate and I’m very aware of all the considerations and prerogatives of any senator, and I respect this completely and I admire those who are genuinely looking at the agreement rather than those who are opposed without even knowing what the agreement was.”
Though away from Washington, Congress is getting additional attention at the moment in light of news last week that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, among the highest-ranking Democrats in the U.S. Senate, will vote against the agreement next month.
Among Minnesota’s delegation, only Democratic Reps. Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson, who represent the Eighth and Seventh Congressional Districts, respectively, in the northern swath of the state, say they are still undecided on how they will vote.
“I’m going to continue to read all I can about it,” Nolan said Monday. “I’m trying to gather as much information as I can and get a full grasp as I can of the consequences of agreeing to the agreement, rejecting the agreement and the possibility of war.”
Minnesota’s Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer and John Kline have said they do not support the agreement, citing concerns that it places too much trust in an enemy country.
Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, as well as Sen. Al Franken, all say they support the agreement.
Kerry, along with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, said Monday that the agreement they reached actually states that Iran is never supposed to acquire or create a nuclear weapon.
The two warned that if the United States, via Congress, walked away from this deal, the country would obtain a nuclear weapon anyway, but it would be without any verifications or inspections.
“The choices are between a very large nuclear program tomorrow, with no verification and essentially a fraying international coalition versus a potentially large nuclear program after 15 years,” said Moniz, which he noted would be transparent to the international community, given the inspections.
“I was really struck by the cohesion … that came on top of the tremendous international cooperation,” Moniz said, after working with allied countries on the agreement for years. “There would be unity in response to them violating the agreement.”