Rep. Chris Van Hollen said Thursday he will support President Barack Obama's controversial nuclear agreement with Iran, a decision that could have implications for the Democrat's campaign for Senate in Maryland.
The decision puts Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, on the same page as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but it has the potential to alienate some Jewish groups that ardently oppose the pending deal.
"I have concluded that this agreement advances the national security interests of the United States and all of our allies, including our partner Israel," Van Hollen said in a statement.
"The benefit of any agreement must be measured against the real-world consequences of no agreement. I firmly believe that, should Congress block this agreement, we would undermine the goal of Iran never obtaining a nuclear weapon, inadvertently weaken and isolate America, and strengthen Iran," he said.
Van Hollen's support also aligns his position with that of Rep. Donna F. Edwards, his opponent in the Senate race who has repeatedly pressed him to take a position. Van Hollen and Edwards are now the only two Democrats in Maryland's congressional delegation to announce where they stand on the agreement.
The U.S. and six world leaders announced an agreement with Iran on July 14 that the administration says will limit Iran's nuclear ambitions for at least a decade in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that have hobbled the country's economy. Republicans have largely opposed the deal, and so it is Democrats whose positions are under close scrutiny.
Sen. Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the state's senior senator have not yet said where they stand. Van Hollen and Edwards are running for Mikulski's seat.
Edwards, an earlier supporter of the deal, had repeatedly criticized Van Hollen for not coming stating his position sooner. For Van Hollen, who has significant support in the Jewish community -- particularly among those who oppose the deal -- the decision was fraught with political consequences.
Siding with Obama could weaken support from pro-Israel groups that have the resources to run advertising in political campaigns. But if Van Hollen came out against the deal, Edwards -- who has attempted to court progressives -- could have noted that her opponent sided with Republicans against the president.
Congress has until Sept. 17 to endorse the Iran deal, reject it or do nothing. Obama has threatened to veto a resolution rejecting the deal.