WASHINGTON — Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, announced on Sunday that she will support the nuclear agreement with Iran that has roiled many in her Florida district.
“I’ll be casting my vote to support the deal and if necessary sustain the president’s veto,” she told Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on CNN. While she called it a “gut wrenching” decision-making process that caused her “angst and pause,” she concluded that the agreement would “put Iran years away from being a threshold nuclear state.”
The congresswoman choked up emotionally as she talked about the difficulty of 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 said. She added: “There is no way that we would be able to ensure that better than approving this deal.”
In a separate interview, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsed the agreement as well, calling it “a pretty good deal” that includes a “very vigorous” inspection system and imposes significant restrictions on Iran.
“These are remarkable changes,” Mr. Powell, who broke with Republicans to vote for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And so we have stopped this highway race that they were going down — and I think that’s very, very important.”
Mr. Powell’s colleague and sometimes rival from the George W. Bush administration, former Vice President Dick Cheney, blasted the deal on Sunday as a “major, major defeat” for American interests in the Middle East.
“The only winner are the Iranians — they got everything they asked for,” Mr. Cheney, who is promoting a new book with his daughter, Liz Cheney, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The losers are the United States, are the friends and allies of the United States, and the region, Israelis, the Saudis and others. The overall outcome I think will be to shift significantly the balance of power in that part of the world to the Iranians.”
Ms. Wasserman Schultz telephoned President Obama on Saturday night to inform him of her decision. Her support does nothing to change the ultimate outcome, since Mr. Obama already had secured more than enough Democrats in the Senate to sustain his veto of any legislation rejecting the deal.
But it provides an important endorsement from a Jewish Democrat who had been closely watched in recent days and had come under enormous pressure from both sides.
Just last week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. flew to Florida to woo her and spent three hours talking with Jewish leaders about the Iran agreement.
But many of Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s prominent backers strongly oppose the deal. A protester outside her office recently screamed that “Wasserman Schultz should go to the ovens” on the assumption that she would support the agreement even as she told constituents she would make her decision “based on my Jewish heart.”
But 38 Senate Democrats have said they will support it, more than the 34 needed by the president to sustain a veto. Enough House Democrats are also expected to back the president in any veto fight.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz said she had received repeated briefings, including in the White House Situation Room, before coming to her decision. She acknowledged that she still had serious concerns.
“I worry that the vigilance over the life of the deal may wane — not the United States’s vigilance,” but that of the international community, she said. She also said she worried that lifting sanctions would unfreeze Iranian funds “that they could divert to terrorist activity.”
But she said the key question was: “Is there a better alternative?”
While critics have called for scrapping the deal and pressing other world powers and Iran to return to the bargaining table for a stronger agreement, she said, “No one presented me any evidence to show me that that was possible.”
Correction: September 6, 2015
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to a distinction held by Ms. Wasserman Shultz. She is the first Jewish woman to be elected to represent Florida In the House — not the first Jewish Democrat to represent the state.
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(via NY Times)