Momentum for Iran deal as NY lawmaker announces backing

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran gained momentum in Congress on Friday as a key Jewish Democrat from New York bucked home-state opposition to back the deal.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler's endorsement followed a personal appeal from Obama, and came despite opposition from New York's senior senator, prominent Democrat Chuck Schumer, and other Jewish members in the New York congressional delegation. Iran has threatened to destroy Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to the deal.

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Nadler became the latest undeclared Democrat to break in favor of the historic agreement, which seeks to keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb in exchange for billions in international sanctions relief.

"I bring to my analysis the full weight of my responsibilities as a member of Congress, and my perspective as an American Jew who is both a Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel," Nadler said in a statement. He said he'd concluded that of the alternatives, the agreement "gives us the best chance of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

Nadler, who's the first Jewish lawmaker from New York to back the deal, received a lengthy personal letter from Obama earlier this week defending the deal and pledging that the U.S. will continue to put economic pressure on Iran and keep military options open.

Democrats who oppose the Iran deal:

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Momentum for Iran deal as NY lawmaker announces backing
UNITED STATES - August 4: Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives for a news conference after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol, Tuesday, August 4, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., center, with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., right, and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, left, speaks to reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2015, urging Congressional Republicans to support sequestration relief in the upcoming budget. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, on the Obama administration's case for the Iran Nuclear Agreement. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
From left, the House Foreign Affairs Committee's ranking member Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y, Secretary of State John Kerry, Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Treasury Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew, arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, for the committee's hearing on the Iran Nuclear Agreement. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
FILE - In this March 25, 2015 file photo, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., leaves a meeting with House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center that featured a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, July 15, 2015. Biden was on the Hill to brief members on the nuclear deal with Iran. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 22: Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center to introduce the Democracy Task Force that will help reduce the influence of money in politics and provide reforms to bring transparency to campaign finance and election laws, April 22, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 3: Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., speaks with Roll Call in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, joined at right by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, discusses the unfinished work of Congress and the struggle for Republican and Democratic budget negotiators to reach a compromise, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, questions US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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"In our conversations, Jerry raised specific concerns relating to Israeli security and the U.S. commitment to countering Iran's destabilizing activities in the region," Obama said Friday. "I wanted to respond to the thoughtful questions Jerry raised, and I am pleased that our discussions were ultimately productive."

Nadler's announcement comes at the end of a week that's seen the deal pick up a steady stream of Democratic support in the House and Senate despite furious opposition from the Israeli government and Republicans who say it makes too many concessions to Iran and could actually enable that country to become a nuclear-armed state.

Congress is facing a vote next month on a resolution disapproving of the deal, but Obama will veto such legislation if it prevails. Congressional Republicans would then need to muster two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate to overturn Obama's veto, a steep bar that even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says Republicans are unlikely to overcome.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a strong supporter of the deal signed by the U.S., Iran and five world powers, declared this week that House Democratic supporters have the votes necessary to sustain Obama's veto despite unanimous GOP opposition. She reiterated that assertion in a letter Friday to fellow Democrats in which she trumpeted Nadler's endorsement and declared, "I feel confident that we will sustain the president's veto, and we will all work together to hold Iran accountable to honoring the agreement."

The list of public Democratic supporters in the House is now approaching 60, with only a dozen opposed. In the Senate, only two Democrats — Schumer and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — have announced opposition to the deal while 26 have announced their support.

However some key Democrats have not yet made their positions known. Among them: Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada; Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.

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Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report from Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.

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