- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 6, 2015

Democrats appear to have cinched the votes needed to declare victory on the Iran nuclear deal, yet Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to swallow back tears Sunday as she described her “gut-wrenching” decision to back the agreement.

“I’m the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress, I’m a Jewish mother,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz, who heads the Democratic National Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“There’s nothing more important to me as a Jew than to ensure that Israel’s existence is there throughout our generations,” she said, “and I am confident that the process I’ve gone through to reach this decision is one that will ensure that Israel will be there forever.”

Her obvious ambivalence shows why the issue is unlikely to disappear even though Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has declared the battle all but over.

For one thing, foes of the agreement believe some shaky Democrats can still be swayed. For another, if the agreement prevails, opponents now spending millions of dollars on ads in key states are expected to move almost seamlessly into campaign mode, targeting vulnerable House and Senate Democrats in elections next year who opt to stand behind President Obama in support of the deal.

As Michael Pregent, national director of Veterans Against the Deal, said during a stop last week to lobby Sen. Michael F. Bennet, Colorado Democrat, “We’re former military guys. It’s not over until the last vote is cast.”

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“Every senator who has come out now in support of this, they haven’t voted yet. We’re going to make sure we talk to them, we’re going to make sure we get in front of them,” said Mr. Pregent, who followed up a Denver trip with a visit to West Virginia to put pressure on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III.

His visit with Mr. Bennet’s staff in the Denver office fell short: The Democrat announced Friday that he would back the agreement despite his “deep concerns.” Meanwhile, Mr. Manchin is one of five Senate Democrats still undecided.

Mr. Manchin isn’t up for re-election until 2018, but Mr. Bennet is running for another term next year. At least two of the television ads running in Colorado urging a “no” vote on the agreement specifically mention the Democrat.

In one ad, former Army staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett, whose face was disfigured by an Iranian bomb, says, “Every politician who’s involved in this will be held accountable,” as a photo of Mr. Bennet flashes on the screen.

“We would like our voices to be weighted a little bit louder than an administration that leaves office in 16 months. Because we’re going to be around afterwards,” said Staff Sgt. Pregent. “We’re going to remember every senator who voted for this deal. Because every day Iran cheats, we’ll put a report out. And Iran’s already cheating and Russia’s helping them do it.”

Mr. Reid amassed last week the 34 votes needed to stop the Senate from overriding a presidential veto on the “resolution of disapproval,” but has since indicated that he may be able to block the Senate from voting altogether.

Republicans are united in their support for a “resolution of disapproval” against the agreement, but if Mr. Reid can scrape together 41 Senate votes, he can use the filibuster to squelch a vote altogether, heading off a protracted — and potentially politically costly — veto fight.

“I recently informed Senator McConnell that after a period of robust debate, Democrats would be happy to proceed straight to a final passage vote that is consistent with Senator McConnell’s many statements that important matters in the Senate have ‘for quite some time required 60 votes,’” Mr. Reid said in a statement Saturday.

“The choice is up to him,” Mr. Reid said, referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

The agreement has met with staunch opposition from pro-Israel groups, as well as the American Security Initiative, founded by three former senators, which is airing television ads saying that Iran’s leaders “stone women, hang homosexuals, sponsor mass terrorism.”

Democrats gained some political cover Sunday from former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a Republican who came out in support of the agreement and called it a “pretty good deal.” Mr. Powell served in key foreign policy roles under three Republican presidents.

“Here’s why I think it’s a good deal: One of the great concerns that the opposition has is that we’re leaving open a lane for the Iranians to go back to creating a nuclear weapon in 10 or 15 years,” Mr. Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“But we’re forgetting the reality they have been on a superhighway for the last 10 years to creating a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program with no speed limit,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Dick Cheney described the agreement, which lifts economic sanctions on Iran exchange for limits and inspections on Iran’s nuclear capability, as a “major, major defeat in terms of our position in the region.”

“If you look at what happened with respect to the Iranian deal, the only winners are the Iranians. They got everything they asked for,” Mr. Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The losers are the United States, are the friends and allies of the United States, and the region, Israelis, the Saudis and others,” Mr. Cheney said. “The overall outcome, I think, will be to shift significantly the balance of power in that part of the world to the Iranians. I think they’ll end up dominating partly not because of the nuclear deal, but also because of the lifting of the embargo on ballistic missiles and on conventional weapons.”

Foes of the deal plan to keep fighting up until the Thursday deadline. The Endowment for Middle East Truth is sponsoring a press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill featuring foreign policy analysts and veterans.

A day later comes the “Stop Iran Now” rally at the nation’s capital, described as a “1 million patriot march” that has drawn top Republicans, including businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both of whom are seeking their party’s presidential nomination.

One reason that Sgt. Pregent says he still holds out hope is that most of the support for the deal is reluctant while the opposition is unwavering.

“They were barely able to muster 34 senators to make sure that his veto would be veto-proof,” Sgt. Pregent said. “That’s nothing to celebrate.”

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