Progressives in Washington, D.C. are pushing centrist Democrats in U.S. Congress to oppose legislation that President Barack Obama has warned could kill a nuclear deal with Iran.
In an open letter to Democrat leaders in Congress published Wednesday by Politico, progressive organizations including Credo, MoveOn, and Daily Kos write, "Senate Democrats are now faced with a choice: Support President Obama’s diplomacy or vote with Republicans to potentially start a war with Iran. There is no third option."
That warning came a day before House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) both announced their opposition to the bills, introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of which would allow a Republican-controlled Congress to weigh in on any final deal on Iran's nuclear program and the other of which would give it the power to reject lifting sanctions against the country.
"Diplomacy has taken us to a framework agreement founded on vigilance and enforcement, and these negotiations must be allowed to proceed unencumbered," Pelosi said on Thursday. "Senator Corker’s legislation undermines these international negotiations and represents an unnecessary hurdle to achieving a strong, final agreement."
If Senate Democrats supply the necessary 13 or more votes to review the framework on the deal or hike up sanctions against Iran, they will face long-term retaliation, progressive groups warned on Wednesday.
"A historic vote on a nuclear deal with Iran is coming," the letter from the groups read. "Like the 2002 vote to give President George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq, Democrats who end up on the wrong side of it will have to answer for their decision for the rest of their careers.”
The letter was addressed primarily to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, and Democratic messaging chief Chuck Schumer of New York. In a separate petition aimed at convincing Senate Democrats to vote against the legislation, Credo accused Schumer of trying to antagonize Iran after he reiterated his support of Corker's bill Monday night.
"Starting a war with Iran is apparently the top legislative priority for the next leader of the Senate Democratic caucus," the petition stated, adding to Schumer that he was "wrong on Iraq, and now you’re wrong on Iran."
Other top Democrats addressed in Wednesday's letter include Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Mark Warner of Virginia. Warner joined Schumer in stating his support of the review bill and the sanctions bill.
However, as of Thursday, bipartisan support of the legislation seemed to be nebulous. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), one of the bill's eight Democratic cosponsors and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, wants to remove language from the legislation that would require the administration to prove that Iran "no longer supports terrorism," according to the Hill.
However, according to another Senate aide, "The White House is still fundamentally opposed to the underlying structure of the bill."
Another noted the significance of the growing push against the legislation, which has caused some Democrats to second-guess their support of the bill. "When pressure is applied, people are going to react."