- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2015

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin announced Friday that he would become the third Senate Democrat to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, while Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet signaled his support.

Their pre-Labor Day announcements bring the number of Senate votes in favor of the international agreement to 38, leaving just five Senate Democrats undecided as a vote on a “resolution of disapproval” approaches.

Still undeclared are Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Republicans, who control both houses, remain unanimous in their opposition to the deal and are expected to vote against it by the Sept. 17 deadline. President Obama has said he will respond with a veto — and he has the 34 votes needed to stop a veto override — but Democrats could block a Senate vote entirely if they can scrape together 41 votes.

Mr. Cardin’s decision to oppose the deal makes that option less likely. In the Senate, so far only Mr. Cardin and Sens. Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer have refused to support the seven-nation agreement with Iran.

“This is a close call, but after a lengthy review, I will vote to disapprove the deal,” Mr. Cardin said in his announcement.

He said the agreement “legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program. After 10 to 15 years, it would leave Iran with the option to produce enough enriched fuel for a nuclear weapon in a short time.”

Mr. Bennet said he and Mr. Cardin would introduce legislation to transfer more aid to Israel and place additional checks on the agreement, which lifts economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions and inspections on its nuclear capability.

“Our primary objectives are to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, make sure Israel is safe and, if possible, avoid another war in the Middle East,” Mr. Bennet said in a statement. “This agreement represents a flawed, but important step to accomplish those goals.”

Mr. Bennet, who has registered lukewarm polling numbers going into his 2016 re-election bid, has been targeted by both sides in television ad campaigns running in the Denver media market.

He came under sharp criticism from the right immediately following his announcement.

“Sen. Michael Bennet just RSVP’d to Iran’s nuclear bomb ribbon-cutting ceremony and secured for the world a more dangerous future,” said Advancing Colorado’s Jonathan Lockwood in a statement.

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