Durbin leading charge on Iran in Senate

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, whose job was seen as in jeopardy at the beginning of the year, has emerged as the chief advocate for President Obama’s Iran deal within the Senate Democratic caucus.

The Illinois Democrat has set up private meetings between Democratic senators and senior administration officials and has put together a 10-person whip team to address colleagues’ concerns over the agreement.
He is the only member of the senior Democratic leadership pushing for the deal, as Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.) remain undecided while Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the leadership, is opposed.
“I support it and I approached the individual members of the caucus after it was announced and told them I wanted them to take their time, read it, reach a decision and let me know,” Durbin said in an interview, describing it as a “very low-key, no pressure approach.”
Democratic senators and aides say Durbin gave the deal a shot of momentum last week by organizing a meeting with ambassadors from the world powers — known as the P5+1 — involved in the negotiations.
“My boss was leaning toward supporting the deal, but she really wanted to home in on a couple of areas under the inspections regime. That meeting was very helpful,” said a Democratic aide.
Before that, he invited a small group of Democrats to his office to meet with Wendy Sherman, the U.S.’s lead negotiator; Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor; and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
“The problem with most briefings and hearings is that senators have limited time to ask questions. About 15 of my colleagues came by and asked questions,” Durbin said.
Durbin’s ad hoc lobbying team is reaching out to colleagues “two at a time, three at a time, keeping in touch with them to see what they need,” he said.
His efforts have shown him to be a valuable ally of liberals at a crucial moment for Obama that could make or break the administration’s vision for Middle Eastern stability.
Durbin won’t say whether he has enough votes to sustain a filibuster of the resolution of disapproval but reports positive feedback from colleagues.
Liberal senators may remember his effort and the value of having a colleague with strong ties to progressive constituencies in next year’s leadership election.
Murray, who is seen as his most likely rival for the whip’s job in the next Congress, will announce her position later in the August recess.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a close ally of Schumer and another member of leadership who is undecided, predicted the Iran vote would be only one of many factors to consider in a potential leadership race.
“I think Dick is doing what he thinks is the right thing,” she said. “He’s very close to the White House, so it’s very appropriate for him to do be doing what he’s doing.”

Tags Chuck Schumer Debbie Stabenow Dick Durbin Ernest Moniz Harry Reid Patty Murray

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