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Rep. Elijah Cummings announces support for Iran deal

Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said Tuesday he will support the controversial nuclear agreement with Iran brokered by the Obama administration and other world leaders, arguing that a rejection of the deal would "likely cause more harm to the United States, American interests, and our allies."

Cummings, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, becomes the third member of Maryland's mostly Democratic congressional delegation to back the agreement. Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, also have announced their support.

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"The fundamental issue for both the Congress and the American people to evaluate is clear: What is the alternative to moving forward with the very real restrictions placed by the [agreement] on the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon?" Cummings said in a statement. "Time is of the essence in answering this question.  Some of our best nuclear scientists have concluded that without the approval and implementation of the [deal], Iran may be able to produce an operational nuclear weapon within months."

Cummings, who has long enjoyed strong support in the state's Jewish community, said he was unconvinced by the idea that a rejection of the deal could trigger new negotiations and a better deal. Opponents of the deal in Congress have until Sept. 17 to pass a resolution to block the deal, which President Obama has promised to veto.

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Cummings is a close ally of the Obama administration, and his position wasn't particularly suprising. Still, the announcement comes in the context of a Senate campaign in Maryland that he may yet enter. Edwards, of Prince George's County, and Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, are both running for the seat that will be left open by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's retirement in 2017.

Cummings' decision all but forecloses the likelihood that the deal will become a factor in the Democratic primary election next year.

"The long-standing, non-partisan and publicly-declared foreign policy commitment of the United States is clear," Cummings said. "We will do whatever is required to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons. Our nation has not ruled out any option that may be required to achieve this objective, including the use of military force."

Rep. Andy Harris, the state's only Republican, is the only member of Maryland's delegation openly opposing the deal. In July, Harris argued that the agreement "will immediately harm the national security of our allies in the Middle East and eventually threaten the United States at home."

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