WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Sunday threw his full support behind President Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, saying "it is the best path to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
"I strongly support the historic agreement and will do everything in my power to ensure that it stands," said Reid, D-Nev., in a news release.
Reid is the 27th Senate Democrat to back the deal and the highest ranking in the Senate. His support will make it difficult for opponents to muster the veto-proof numbers needed in the Senate, and therefore, in Congress to scuttle the agreement.
Republicans and the Israeli government furiously oppose the deal signed by the U.S., Iran and five world powers, which seeks to keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb in exchange for billions in international sanctions relief. They say Obama's agreement makes too many concessions to Iran and could actually enable that country to become a nuclear-armed state.
But it is looking less and less likely that opponents can garner sufficient support. Congress plans a vote next month on a resolution disapproving of the deal, which Obama has threatened to veto. Opponents would then need two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate to override.
In the Senate, only two Democrats — Schumer and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — have announced opposition to the deal. With the addition of Reid's support, Democrats are getting closer to the 34 votes needed in the Senate to sustain the veto.
A steady stream of Democrats have backed the deal, and Reid's support will provide an opportunity for others to jump on board. The announcement also comes before Obama heads to Nevada.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi already has said House Democratic supporters have the votes necessary to sustain Obama's veto despite unanimous GOP opposition.
The White House had no immediate comment.
Reid said he believes that the deal was the best that could be achieved.
"First, this is a good agreement on the merits, imposing the toughest inspections and verification regime in history, and a diplomatic solution is certainly less costly in American blood and treasure than any possible military option," Reid said. "Second, if the Senate rejects this agreement, the international community will not support an attempt to secure another and they will not support the sanctions regime. Those are hard facts."
Iran has threatened to destroy Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to the deal.
Reid said Israel's security is "of utmost importance." ''I support this deal because I believe it is the best option to halt any Iranian nuclear weapons program and therefore to protect the State of Israel," he said.