President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday drew instant criticism from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and other Democrats — including three Palm Beach County members of Congress who opposed the agreement in 2015.
Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s challenging Nelson for Senate, applauded Trump’s decision. So did Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who opposed the deal in 2015 when it was championed by former President Barack Obama.
Minutes after Trump announced he would scrap the deal, Nelson released a video that warned “pulling out of this deal now is a tragic mistake. It will divide us from our European allies and it will allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb within a year, instead of preventing it for at least 7 to 12 years.”
Both Scott’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee seemed eager to make Nelson’s position an issue in the Senate race.
“Bill Nelson’s tireless support of the disastrous Iran Deal is the real tragic mistake. Instead of admitting this deal is dangerous and reckless, Bill Nelson continues to protect failed Obama policies to please his extreme liberal base,” said NRSC spokeswoman Camille Gallo.
A majority of the Senate opposed the Iran deal in 2015. But under Senate rules, Republicans needed 60 votes to proceed with a resolution opposing the agreement. They fell short as Nelson and 41 other Democrats voted to block consideration of the resolution.
Nelson at the time told the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches that the agreement “has its flaws” but was better than the alternative.
The House voted against the deal by a 269-to-162 margin in September 2015. Only 25 Democrats opposed the deal, including three from Palm Beach County: Reps. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach.
Despite their 2015 opposition, Deutch, Hastings and Frankel all criticized Trump on Tuesday for withdrawing from it.
But on Tuesday, Deutch said: “I regret the President’s decision to weaken American leadership around the globe. I have expressed my concerns about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but I have been clear that American leadership is necessary for the vigorous enforcement of its terms.”
Said Hastings: “Although I opposed the agreement, in part because of its provisions protecting Iran’s capacity for manufacturing advanced centrifuges in the future, unilaterally withdrawing from the deal may put our credibility on the international stage in jeopardy at the worst possible time.”
Frankel acknowledged her 2015 opposition, but in an “open letter” to Trump published in The Hill before Trump’s announcement, she urged the president to honor the deal.
While acknowledging continuing concerns with the Iranian regime, Frankel wrote, “the United States negotiated this deal with our partners and Iran is by all accounts following it … Mr. President, you are wrong to think that if we withdraw from the nuclear accord, we can negotiate a ‘better agreement.’”
The fourth member of Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, was not in Congress when the Iran deal was approved in 2015. On Tuesday, he praised Trump for withdrawing.
“President Trump’s decisive action today is a much needed first step in the long road to undoing the damage caused by President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Clinton and their foreign policy advisors,” Mast said. “No deal with Iran is far wiser than a bad deal.”