CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin had a large turnout Thursday for a town hall meeting on the Iran nuclear deal, as many residents showed up at the University of Charleston to oppose the deal.
Manchin claimed to be on the fence on where he stands on President Obama’s deal, beginning the forum in Riggleman Hall by saying “As the good Lord as my witness, I am truly undecided.” Many wore t-shirts, buttons and carried signs reading “We Need A Better Deal.”
Manchin thought hearing out public concerns was important but said they wouldn’t be the main factor in how he votes.
“I want to make a decision based on the facts,” he said. “If I’m going to Washington to make political decisions on what’s good for me and my political posturing, I don’t think that’s what you elected me to do.”
Rabbi Victor Urecki , who opposed the deal along with many in the Jewish community who attended the meeting, was encouraged by the large turnout.
“The Senator should understand how important this is to us. We know he is listening carefully to the people of West Virginia,” Urecki said. “I think a strong showing here indicates what West Virginians are thinking.”
Manchin indicated that he would be the first to vote for a war if Iran ever did procure a nuclear weapon to use against the United States and Israel. A key aspect to him was not only the deal, but also being able to enforce the deal.
“If we do a deal in good faith and it doesn’t work, and (the deal) is violated by the Iranians, are we committed to do everything humanly possible to make them honor it or pay a horrific price for not honoring the deal?,” he asked.
Manchin was also unsure as the whether the United States main allies would stand behind the Americans if the deal were approved.
“Will they stick with us? Will United Kingdom, France, Germany…? Russia and China both have been part of this negotiation on this agreement,” he explained. “Because they have one thing in common with the United States: the world is better off if Iran never has a nuclear weapon.”
Manchin said he expects to make his decision by early next week, and also said that West Virginia residents would be the first to know what he decides. He thought the town hall format was a success.
“It was a good dialogue and people were very respectful. We had both sides; you heard both sides. I’ve got to digest all of this and make a decision,” the senator said.
Manchin’s “no” vote would be one of several Democratic votes needed in Congress to attempt to overturn the president’s deal. Obama has said he would veto any measure blocking the agreement, which would require a two-thirds vote in Congress to override.