President Obama applauds Senator Patty Murray
President Obama applauds Senator Patty Murray at a rally at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in October 2010 (Photo: Chelsea Nesvig, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Wash­ing­ton’s senior U.S. sen­a­tor and the fourth-rank­ing Demo­c­rat in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, Pat­ty Mur­ray, has just released a lengthy state­ment pledg­ing to sup­port Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma by vot­ing against a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval con­cern­ing the  Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action with Iran.

The first para­graphs of the state­ment are as follows:

There are no more momen­tous deci­sions fac­ing a Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor than those involv­ing war, peace, and the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty of our fam­i­lies, our ser­vice­mem­bers, our allies, and our nation. When it comes to these issues, my con­stituents expect me to do every­thing I can to cut through the pol­i­tics, push aside the par­ti­san­ship, break through the rhetoric, and make the best pos­si­ble deci­sion with the infor­ma­tion we have. I take this respon­si­bil­i­ty very seri­ous­ly, and I have approached my deci­sion on the upcom­ing vote on this deal the same way I approached my deci­sion to sup­port a war in Afghanistan, and the same way I approached my deci­sion to oppose a war in Iraq.

In the weeks since the deal was announced, I have been study­ing the details, talk­ing to experts, ask­ing ques­tions, get­ting more infor­ma­tion, and lis­ten­ing to my con­stituents on all sides of the issue.

I pushed the Admin­is­tra­tion for details and answers to tough ques­tions, and I had frank con­ver­sa­tions with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, Vice Pres­i­dent Biden, and Sec­re­tary Ker­ry. I attend­ed clas­si­fied brief­in­gs with the State Depart­ment, Ener­gy Depart­ment, and mem­bers of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. I had good con­ver­sa­tions with Israeli Ambas­sador Der­mer and so many strong and pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers on both sides of this issue in Wash­ing­ton state and across the country.

And I came away from my con­ver­sa­tions with a deep respect for the pas­sion­ate and strong­ly-argued views on all sides of this issue.

Going into this deci­sion, I had clear prin­ci­ples guid­ing my thinking.

First and fore­most, Iran can­not be allowed to devel­op a nuclear weapon, and my deci­sion would be based on what course of action moves us clos­er to that pri­ma­ry goal.

Sec­ond, Iran can­not be trust­ed, and no deal should hinge on them hold­ing up their end of the bar­gain based on their word or good faith alone. Third, a strong diplo­mat­ic solu­tion is the best option.

And fourth, the Unit­ed States needs to keep all options on the table, includ­ing mil­i­tary options, if Iran decides to move toward a nuclear weapon or threat­ens us or our allies in any oth­er way.

Guid­ed by these prin­ci­ples, I will be vot­ing to sup­port the agree­ment to pre­vent Iran from devel­op­ing a nuclear weapon. I will vote against the res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval, and, if need­ed, I will vote against over­rid­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s veto. 

Empha­sis is ours.

We thank Sen­a­tor Mur­ray for tak­ing a prin­ci­pled stand for peace, not war, and giv­ing diplo­ma­cy a chance to work. The Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action is the best way for us to ensure that Iran does not devel­op a nuclear weapon.

Sen­a­tor Mur­ray joins over two dozen oth­er Democ­rats, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Har­ry Reid and Sen­a­tor Dick Durbin, as sup­port­ers of the JCPOA. Only two Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors, Chuck Schumer and Bob Menen­dez, have come out in oppo­si­tion so far.

If at least forty-one Democ­rats band togeth­er, they could hold up a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval in the U.S. Sen­ate and pre­vent it from even get­ting to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s desk, thanks to the Sen­ate’s unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic rules, which allow a sub­ma­jor­i­ty of sen­a­tors to pre­serve the sta­tus quo and pre­vent the Sen­ate from act­ing on leg­is­la­tion (or in this case, adopt­ing a resolution).

Mur­ray is the first of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors to take a firm posi­tion on the JCPOA. Now it’s time for her col­leagues Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden, and Jeff Merkley to fol­low suit. There is only one posi­tion they can respon­si­bly take, and that is to sup­port this agree­ment and the Pres­i­dent who nego­ti­at­ed it.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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