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Why Sen. Wyden's Iranian Decision Matters

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden isn’t sure how he’s going to vote on the Iranian nuclear deal. On one hand, the Oregon Democrat describes himself as “a diplomacy guy,” working to keep the U.S. out of war. Yet, Wyden says he is deeply concerned about the estimated $100 billion Iran will get if the deal is approved.

“It’s a very significant factor," Wyden said. "Iran is going to get a substantial amount of money here … a very real portion of that money will go to support Hamas and Hezbollah."

As Wyden weighs the proposal, his colleague — and soon to be Democratic leader — Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York announced he would not support the deal.

Meanwhile, Portland Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Wyden ally, announced he would support the Iran deal.

"We walk away from this, what's going to happen is Iran is going to win," Blumenauer told OPB. "We won’t have the coalition of international countries supporting us. I think Iran’s not contained. I think it’s a blow to diplomacy. And the only alternative to stopping Iran, as far as I can tell, is war."

No matter which way Wyden goes, analysts widely expect that the Republican-controlled House will reject the deal. Congressional Republicans like Oregon’s Rep. Greg Walden have signaled they strongly disapprove of the proposal.

"The regime in Iran exports terror around the globe, threatens the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and continues to relentlessly pursue the world’s worst weapons," Walden wrote in a statement. "It seems that the Obama administration has decided to reward that bad behavior with permanent benefits in exchange for a temporary delay in their nuclear program. This is unacceptable for our safety and security."

So why does Wyden’s vote matter?

If Congress votes to block the agreement, Obama has said he will veto that bill. And this is where Wyden and other undecided Democrats play an important role. If Republicans begin the veto override process, it’ll be Democrats like Wyden who keep opponents of the deal from getting the two-thirds support needed to reject the agreement.

"This is something that will be debated all through the month," said Wyden. "There are a variety of strategic questions with respect to what happens both if it passes, and if it goes down."

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

John Sepulvado