Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) addresses the AIPAC policy conference in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will vote to reject the Iran nuclear deal later this month, he announced on Friday.
Penning an op-ed in the Washington Post, Cardin argued the deal makes it difficult to reimpose sanctions in the event Iran builds up its nuclear program and shortens the time it would need to construct a weapon. This reality, he says, makes war more likely, and not less.
"This is a close call, but after a lengthy review, I will vote to disapprove the deal," he said. "Despite the rhetoric coming from all sides, this is not a clear choice. Nobody possesses clairvoyance."
Cardin said he would soon move to introduce legislation that would clarify America's commitment to preventing Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons, restating its willingness to use military force and its right to impose sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear malign activities.
The bill, he said, would include authorization of a new security package for Israel.
Cardin joins only two Democratic colleagues in the upper chamber openly opposed to the deal: Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York. But his decision to reject it is nevertheless a blow to the Obama administration, as he now completes a bipartisan circle of foreign policy leadership in Congress opposed to the landmark accord.
He joins the top Republican on the committee, chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, along with House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-California) and ranking member Eliot Engel (D-New York), in opposition.
And yet their ability to change the outcome of the vote remains uncertain. In order for a scheduled resolution of disapproval to proceed past debate and on to a vote this month, 60 senators must unite to invoke cloture and break a filibuster.
Cardin's disapproval of the agreement furthers the cause of opponents— 57 senators are now on record against the deal. But only five remain undecided, and they are all Democrats.
Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, endorsed the "flawed, but important step" toward preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear arms on Friday, becoming the 38th senator to do so.
"None of us knows what lies 10 or 15 years on the horizon," Bennet said, responding to criticisms that the deal grants Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapons capacity at that time.
Congress returns from its summer recess next week. Its period for review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the agreement, ends on September 17.