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Robert Menendez is second Democratic senator to oppose Iran nuclear deal

By Danielle Haynes
Robert Menendez is second Democratic senator to oppose Iran nuclear deal
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Tuesday he opposes President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Robert Menendez on Tuesday became the second Democratic senator to oppose President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, saying he would vote to override a presidential veto if necessary.

Speaking at Seton Hall University's School of Diplomacy and International Relations, the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he disagrees with a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program as negotiated by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

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The New Jersey senator said the deal will leave Iran "flush with money" after alleviating sanctions, something the country could use "to further pursue their destabilizing hegemonic goals in the region.

"We want the right deal and a deal that does nothing more than delay the inevitable is not a deal we are willing to make," Menendez said.

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Menendez's stance isn't entirely surprising. Speaking at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in March, he vowed to defend the U.S.-Israel relationship.

"As long as I have an ounce of fight left in me, as long as I have a vote and a say and a chance to protect the interest of Israel, the region and the national security interests of the United States, Iran will never have a pathway to a weapon," Menendez said. "It will never threaten Israel or its neighbors, and it will never be in a position to start a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East. Not on my watch."

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Menendez joins New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who earlier this month became the first Democratic senator to come out against Obama's Iran deal. He said his chief concern was Iran would be free to build a nuclear bomb after a decade.

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Obama has the option to veto any resolution the Republican-led Congress passes to temporarily halt a move forward on the Iran deal. Congress can override Obama's veto if both chambers have a two-thirds majority vote in opposition to the deal, something that's looking less and less likely.

As of Tuesday morning, 19 senators, including Menendez and Schumer, have said they will vote against the deal and another 38 are leaning toward voting no, for a total of 57 of the 67 votes needed for a majority. Another 13 senators are undecided, 10 are leaning yes and 20 said they will definitely vote yes.

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