U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she'll support Iran nuclear deal
By Mike Clary and Anthony Man
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, announced Sunday that she would support the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran.
In what she called "the most difficult decision I have had to make in the nearly 23 years I have served in elected office," Wasserman Schultz said she would vote for the agreement when it comes up for a vote in Congress, perhaps as early as this week.
Wasserman Schultz announced her decision Sunday and went on CNN's "State of the Union" to talk about what she termed a "gut-wrenching" process she went through to reach her decision. The congresswoman seemed to choke up when she described weighing the decision as a "Jewish mother" and the first Jewish woman elected to the House from Florida.
"There's nothing more important to me as a Jew than to ensure that Israel's existence is there throughout our generations," she told program host Jake Tapper.
But, she added, "There is no way that we would be able to ensure that better than approving this deal."
Wasserman Schultz is fiercely loyal to the president, who made her chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. The deal is Obama's top foreign policy priority. And she's been a longtime, close ally of Vice President Joe Biden, dating to his time as a U.S. senator and her college days.
Many organizations and leaders in the Jewish community oppose the deal. Wasserman Schultz is a staunch supporter of Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the world's leading opponent of the agreement.
Last week, she said her decision would be based on the facts but also would be "made with my Jewish heart and that is equally important to me."
Wasserman Schultz's decision puts her at odds with fellow Democrats U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings, who condemned the accord. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida supports it; Republican presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio is opposed.
In what the White House calls a comprehensive agreement, the U.S., along with the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany, signed an accord with Iran designed to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure that nation's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.
The deal is hotly opposed by most Republicans and some Democrats. But 38 Senate Democrats have said they will support it, more than the 34 needed by the president to sustain a veto.
"The truth is that the American people do not trust the White House's nuclear deal with Iran – which empowers Iran with more flexibility and economic relief without preventing them from obtaining nuclear weapons. ... Voters across Florida deserve a White House that will not settle for weak negotiations and reward nations that sponsor terrorism," said Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.
Just last week Wasserman Schultz hosted Vice President Joe Biden as he lobbied for the accord during a meeting with 32 Jewish community leaders at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie.
After that meeting, Wasserman Schultz said her decision would be "based on one thing and one thing only: What I ultimately believe is the most likely to achieve preventing Iran from achieving its nuclear weapons goals."
In a lengthy statement and opinion piece published in The Miami Herald, Wasserman Schultz detailed many of the arguments made by opponents who say the deal gives Iran too many opportunities to get around sanctions designed to keep them from acquiring a nuclear bomb, and then offered her reasons for rejecting them.
"This agreement is not perfect," she wrote. "But I join many in the belief that with complex, multilateral, nuclear non-proliferation negotiations with inherent geopolitical implications for the entire world, there is no such thing as a 'perfect' deal."
As she considered the issue over the past few weeks, Wasserman Schultz said, "my commitment to the security of Israel as an American ally, but more personally as a deeply committed member of the Jewish community has weighed heavily on me throughout my review process.
"Make no mistake: this is an American national security issue. But when Iran continues to call for the destruction of the Jewish people and the state of Israel, our most staunch ally in the region, and its proxy Hezbollah continues to launch attacks against innocent civilians, it is irresponsible not to consider this agreement's impact on that nation."
Wasserman Schultz said reaching a decision on how to vote came after a "careful review of the facts and deep, personal reflection and soul searching.
"A constituent said to me during one of my many meetings at home in the past few weeks that I would not want to look back years from now and realize I made the wrong decision," she wrote.
"It was critically important to me that I not look back and feel that way. I am confident that the decision that I am making with the information I have is the correct one."
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat who represents parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, is the lone undecided South Florida representative.
"To me, this is a very monumental vote, and I am taking all the time I can get," Frankel said last month.