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Why Harry Reid Needed to Announce Iran Deal Support When He Did

Reid announced his support for the Iran deal Sunday, one day before hosting Obama in Las Vegas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Reid announced his support for the Iran deal Sunday, one day before hosting Obama in Las Vegas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Sunday he would support the international nuclear agreement with Iran and work to ensure it survives a GOP-led disapproval effort, the Nevada Democrat avoided what could have been an awkward Monday.  

Reid is hosting dignitaries at his National Clean Energy Summit at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The list of speakers is headlined by President Barack Obama, as well as Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz — a key U.S. negotiator on the Iran deal. After the event, Obama and Reid are scheduled to attend a Democratic fundraiser to benefit former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democrat with Reid’s backing to succeed him in 2017.  

“This nuclear agreement is consistent with the greatest traditions of American leadership. I will do everything in my power to support this agreement and ensure that America holds up our end of the commitment we have made to our allies and the world to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran,” Reid said in a statement. “I will vote no on the resolution of disapproval and urge my colleagues to do the same.”  

The Nevada Democrat told the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal last week he was talking to supporters in his home state before he would announce a position on the agreement.  

“I have had several of them and they are very important to me because I want people who have been so good to me for so many years to have the opportunity to talk with me — person-to-person — and not on the telephone. So I am doing that,” Reid told the Reno paper .  

In announcing his support for the Iran deal in an interview with The Washington Post, Reid said he had been privately supportive of the agreement for a while. He also said the “vote of conscience” against the Obama administration on the result of the international negotiations would not harm the standing of Sen. Charles E. Schumer. The New York lawmaker is still firmly in line to succeed Reid as Democratic leader.  

Reid’s announcement brings the number of Senate Democratic Conference members supporting the agreement to 27. The president needs at least 34 senators in his corner to sustain a veto.  

For Obama, getting Reid’s backing on record before Air Force One is wheels up to Las Vegas for the energy summit and a fundraiser for the Nevada State Democratic Party eliminates the possibility of the president’s message being subsumed by speculation about Reid and Iran.  

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call race ratings list the contest to replace Reid as a tossup, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been hammering the Reid-backed Cortez Masto to take a position on the agreement with Iran.  

“Catherine Cortez Masto has nothing to offer but silence on a nuclear deal that threatens our national security,” NRSC spokesman Greg Blair said in an Aug. 20 statement. “Either she’s waiting for marching orders from Harry Reid or she’s refusing to come clean with Nevadans about where she stands.”

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