WASHINGTON (JTA) — Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, becoming emotional as she described the pressures she felt in arriving at her decision.
The Florida congresswoman, one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent and senior Jewish members, announced her decision on Sunday in a five-page statement released to the Miami Herald and then published on her website.
In an interview Sunday with CNN, Wasserman Schultz verged on tears as she described making a decision “as a Jewish mother.”
“There’s nothing more important to me as a Jew than to ensure that Israel’s existence is there throughout our generations,” she told Jake Tapper.
Wasserman Schultz has made her Jewishness a hallmark of her congressional career. In 2006, in her freshman term, she led passage of a bill marking May as Jewish American Heritage Month.
In the CNN interview, she described how over the last two years the White House hosted her for 20 top-secret briefings in its situation room, a signal of the importance that President Barack Obama attached to her support.
Her consideration had been under intense scrutiny by the media and fellow lawmakers. Her South Florida district is heavily Jewish.
In the Miami Herald Op-Ed, Wasserman Schultz called her decision “the most difficult decision I have had to make in the nearly 23 years I have served in elected office.”
She also said her support for the deal is “one that is deeply personal. Iran’s leaders routinely call for the destruction of the United States, the nation to which I have dedicated my life to serving. Iran’s leaders are also virulent anti-Semites and call for the destruction of Israel, the historic homeland for me and millions of other Jews.”
Her decision brings to a majority the number of Jews in Congress — 15 out of 28 — who back the deal. Eight oppose it and five remain undecided.
Wasserman Schultz on Thursday appeared in South Florida with Vice President Joe Biden, who was stumping for the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal brokered in July between Iran and six world powers.
Last month, Wasserman Schultz reportedly prevented consideration of a resolution at the party’s summer meeting that praised Obama and offered backing for the Iran nuclear deal.
Also Sunday, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he supports the Iran nuclear deal.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” Powell, who served under Republican President George W. Bush, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He called the agreement to reduce Iran’s centrifuges and uranium stockpile, and the agreement to shut down its plutonium reactor “remarkable.”
In response to the deal’s critics, he said, “I say we have a deal, let’s see how they implement the deal. If they don’t implement it, bail out. None of our options are gone.”