Washington — Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Monday she will back an Obama administration deal aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon as the White House works to convince the final half-dozen Democrats to uphold the deal.
Also Monday, Democratic Reps. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn said they would back the deal; they were the last remaining Michigan House Democrats who were undecided.
Stabenow is the 28th U.S. Senate Democrat to back the deal; President Barack Obama needs the support of at least 34 Democrats to prevent Republicans from overturning the deal.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, hasn’t said if he will back the deal. Two Democrats — Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — have said they will oppose the deal.
“I have determined that the imminent threat of Iran having a nuclear weapon outweighs any flaws I see in the international agreement. For this reason, I must support the agreement,” Stabenow said. “For me, the decision comes down to this: without this international agreement, Iran will have enough nuclear material for a weapon in three months. With this agreement, and the international coalition committed to it, we have the opportunity to stop Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon, certainly for at least 25 years.”
Liberal groups are pressing Peters to back the deal, and he is the only Michigan Democrat in Congress not to publicly back the deal. Peters spokeswoman Amber Moon said there was no update on his deliberations.
Lawrence traveled to Israel in recent weeks and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian officials.
“It has, however, become increasingly clear to me — and many of the world’s leading political, military and scientific minds — that America’s current policy to control this potential threat will no longer suffice and I support this agreement,” Lawrence said. “This agreement is our best option for ensuring that we live in a world where Iran does not have a nuclear bomb.”
Lawrence and Dingell joined Democratic Reps. Sander Levin of Royal Oak, Dan Kildee of Flint Township and John Conyers Jr. of Detroit in backing the agreement.
“This agreement is our best option for ensuring that we live in a world where Iran does not have a nuclear bomb,” Lawrence said in a statement.
Dingell also called the deal America’s best security choice.
“Pragmatically we have no other realistic options, and failure to support the president will hurt the United States in the world community while having no impact on preventing Iran from gaining nuclear capability,” Dingell said. “This is not an easy decision, and it is one that is made with the utmost respect for my friends and colleagues on both sides. This process has shown me that no matter what decision one reaches on this issue, almost everyone shares the exact same concerns.”
Stabenow said she had heard from many deal opponents.
“I completely understand the deep fear and emotion involved in this debate. When Iranian extremist leaders chant ‘death to America’ and ‘death to Israel,’ the first question we have is ‘how in the world can we trust them to live up to an agreement?’ The answer is: We cannot. That is why this agreement is not based on trust in any way. It's based on strict inspections and verification coupled with the fact that America keeps all of our current options, including military action, if Iran in any way continues down the path of creating a nuclear weapon,” Stabenow said.
“And critically important to me, we will have additional information about the movement of uranium and component parts needed to make nuclear weapons for at least 25 years. Again, most importantly, if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon, the United States continues to have every option on the table, including military action.”
On Sunday, Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he backs the deal as well.
Earlier this month, former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, endorsed the deal.
Two top Obama administration officials said rejecting the deal reached with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China “would weaken the deterrent value of America’s military option.”
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz met and the top State Department negotiator in the Iran talks, Wendy Sherman, met with about 40 members of Metro Detroit’s Jewish community earlier this month in Birmingham along with the state’s two senators.
Lawrence; Dave Trott, R-Birmingham; Mike Bishop, R-Rochester; and John Moolenaar, R-Midland, were among nearly 60 U.S. lawmakers meeting with Israeli and Palestinian government officials on a Middle East trip earlier this month. Trott, Bishop and Moolenaar have all said they oppose the Iran deal.
Opponents need to muster two-thirds of the House and Senate to block the deal, which was approved by the United Nations Security Council on a 15-0 vote. If Obama can win the support of 41 Senate Democrats, it would prevent the measure from coming to the floor for a vote.