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Kathy Castor latest House Democrat to come out in support of Iran nuclear deal

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As expected, Tampa-based Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor officially came out on Friday morning as a supporter of the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran. And like virtually every other Democrat who has announced their support, she says the decision didn’t come lightly, and she knows that it’s not perfect.

“I’ve spoken with sanctions experts and military leaders. I heard from hundreds of my neighbors through phone calls, letters, emails, social media posts and in office meetings who both support and oppose the agreement. I value their opinions.  The common goal, even among those who disagree about the merits of this deal, is to prevent violence and war and create the opportunity for peace and prosperity in the Middle East, particularly for Israel. “

Castor says she has “no illusions” regarding the Iranian regime or the destabilizing influence that it continues to have in the region. “However, I believe that dealing with an Iran with a nuclear weapon presents a much greater challenge and threat than one without such capability.”

In a major signal of support back in May, Castor was one of 150 House Democrats to sign a letter supporting President Obama’s framework for a nuclear deal with Iran.

Her announcement comes two days after Senate Democrats clinched the 34 votes needed to uphold Obama’s veto, if necessary, of a resolution of disapproval that Republicans are trying to pass this month. On Thursday, New Jersey’s Cory Booker, Virgina’s Mark Warner and Monana’s Heidi Heitkamp made it 37 Democratic or independent senators in favor of the deal, just four short of the 41 needed to allow senators to block a final vote on the disapproval resolution in the Senate and save Obama from exercising his veto power.

Not every Florida House Democrat supports the deal. Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch from South Florida have both come out against it. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alan Grayson  still have not revealed where they stand on the issue. The House may vote on the matter as early as next week.

Here’s Castor statement in full:

“Since the announcement of the JCPOA, I have read, reviewed and researched the efficacy of the agreement, met with passionate and informed constituents, and participated in a number of classified briefings on the subject.  My overriding concern is whether or not the agreement is in the national security interest of the United States.  After careful review and discussions, I believe that it is. 

It has been a long-standing goal of the United States and our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The United States enacted economic sanctions on Iran and successfully led the international community to adopt additional restrictions with the goal of bringing Iran to the negotiating table and halting nuclear weapon development.  Sanctions worked and produced an agreement that appears to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon development.

I did not come to this decision lightly.  I’ve spoken with sanctions experts and military leaders. I heard from hundreds of my neighbors through phone calls, letters, emails, social media posts and in office meetings who both support and oppose the agreement. I value their opinions.  The common goal, even among those who disagree about the merits of this deal, is to prevent violence and war and create the opportunity for peace and prosperity in the Middle East, particularly for Israel. 

Yesterday when I visited with leaders at U.S. Central Command (“CENTCOM”) at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, I was struck by what this agreement will mean for the region.  I have no illusions about the dreadful record and conduct of the Iranian regime, or the destabilizing influence Iran continues to have in the region.   However, I believe that dealing with an Iran with a nuclear weapon presents a much greater challenge and threat than one without such capability. 

The JCPOA allows the United States and international community to peacefully and verifiably deny Iran pathways to a nuclear weapon, thus reducing a dangerous threat to our nation, Israel and our allies.  I believe that we must maintain our pressure and vigilance on Iran’s other nefarious activities in the region and continue our unwavering support for Israel’s security needs.  There is a burgeoning coalition of countries in the Middle East that seek to reduce security threats. Now that it is clear that the JCPOA will not be disapproved, the focus must shift to enforcement of the terms of the agreement and a strategic security plan for the region and Israel.

Like many others, I know that this deal is not perfect.  But there is no practical alternative that is perfect.  I do not believe that rejecting the JCPOA and attempting to return to the negotiating table will provide us with a better result.  In that scenario, we would be left with the worst of all worlds – an Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon, diminished support from our allies and reduced leverage for the United States. 

I understand and appreciate the passion and strong convictions that many people have regarding the non-proliferation deal.  After immersing myself in the details, I believe that it is indeed in the national security interests of the United States.  I will vote against a Resolution of Disapproval of the JCPOA and to uphold a presidential veto if it comes to that.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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