By Julian Hattem - 08/30/15 12:20 PM EDT
Democratic Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Wells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel Senate Dems call for investigation into Wells Fargo's wage practices MORE (Ore.) said that he supports the nuclear deal with Iran on Sunday, becoming the 31st senator to back the accord and putting supporters within just three voters of ensuring the ability to keep it intact.
In calling the multination deal “the best available strategy to block Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Merkley joined the growing group of Democrats committed to supporting the agreement against a likely united GOP effort to kill it.
“No foreign policy choice comes with guarantees,” Merkley wrote in a 1,300-word statement posted on Medium on Sunday.
“The future, whether we approve or reject the deal, is unknowable and carries risks. But the agreement offers us better prospects for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and more tools and leverage to ensure that outcome,” he added.
With Merkley’s support, Senate Democrats backing the deal need just three additional votes to ensure that they can uphold President Obama’s veto of any legislation to block the deal. Democrats need 34 votes to uphold a veto and 41 to successfully filibuster the deal.
Thirty-one Senate Democrats have said they will support he deal, compared to two who have announced their opposition. Thirteen Democrats are still undecided in the upper chamber.
Merkley’s statement might put pressure on Sen. Ron Wyden (D), his fellow Oregonian, who is considered a swing vote and remains undecided on the agreement.
In his statement on Sunday, Merkley maintained that the agreement had “significant shortcomings."
For instance, it lifts restrictions on shipments of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles within five and eight years, respectively, gives Iran free reign to spend the billions of dollars in sanctions relief however it pleases and also abandons the “bright lines” on its nuclear program after 15 years.
But at this point, there are “slim” prospects of forcing Iran and the four other nations involved in a deal to go back to the negotiating table, he said. The likely outcomes from the U.S.’s decision to abandon the deal, Merkley maintained, were either America’s alienation from the rest of the world or a weakening of the sanctions regime and global unanimity against Iran.
Instead, he said that the U.S. should “strengthen this framework” by ordering massive intelligence oversight of the deal to ensure that Iran does not cheat and should set standards for Iran to live under once the terms of the agreement end in 15 years. The U.S. should also be “vigilant” about monitoring how Iran spends its sudden injection of new cash, Merkley said, and beef up the crackdown on Iran’s support for terrorism and human rights abuses.