Vice President Seeks South Florida Support For Iran Arms Deal

Sep 3, 2015

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Vice President Joe Biden, both Democrats, talk about the Iranian nuclear deal at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie.
Credit David Santiago / El Neuvo Herald

Vice President Joe Biden met with more than two dozen South Florida Jewish leaders Thursday to soothe fears about a White House deal to monitor the Iranian weapons programs.

The deal would end trade and foreign aid restrictions in exchange for international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites.

“If we can take the nuclear bomb off the table, it’s better dealing with those guys than if we’re dealing with those bad guys and the nuclear bomb is on the table,” he said.

But critics argue the deal allows Iran to conduct its own inspections. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked him about it.

Biden says that’s not true, but didn’t want to say why publicly.

"Debbie just handed me a question...about self inspection," the vice president said. "The answer is it’s not self inspection, number one. But let me go into that in more detail when the press isn’t here.”

Biden spoke at length -- and in great detail -- about why people should support the deal. But then reporters were removed from the room, and Biden led a closed-door question and answer session for more than an hour.

One person who is still undecided is Wasserman Schultz. The South Florida Democratic congresswoman said she’ll do what’s right when it comes to casting a vote on the White House’s Iranian arms deal.

Many Israeli leaders worry the deal would allow Iran to hide their efforts to build a nuclear weapon. Polls show a majority of U.S. voters oppose the deal.

Wasserman Schultz has yet to make up her mind on the deal.

“I am not afraid to make this decision," she said. "I am never afraid to stand alone. This is a decision not only to be made based on your head, but one that will be made with my Jewish heart.”

The deal would end sanctions on Iran, including trade restrictions and bans on foreign aid. In exchange, Iran would allow international inspectors to monitor their nuclear sites.

Enough Democratic senators publicly support the deal to to ensure it will take effect. Congress will vote on the deal this month. But Wasserman Schultz could face  pressure to resign from the Democratic National Committee if she opposes the deal.

Those who attended the question-and-answer session said most of the people in the room arrived opposing the deal.

Barry Wilen said he still is opposed, but said that Biden made a good case.

"If you can't trust the country because of past behavior," Wilen said, "no matter what they promise in writing…it may only be empty promises."

Attorney and Democratic Party fundraiser Andrew Weinstein supports  the Iran deal. He said Biden was a strong advocate.

"He brings to this discussion an incredible amount of credibility," Weinstein said.

The meeting wrapped up the vice president’s two-day trip through South Florida that included a fund-raiser for Senate candidates and a speech at Miami Dade College.