WASHINGTON -- Everyone on Capitol Hill seems to be an expert on the Iran deal these days. But one freshman Democrat in the Senate has better credentials than most -- he actually has a background in science and engineering. And he drew on that expertise to become one of the first senators in either party to declare that he will vote in favor of the agreement when Congress takes it up in September.
“In this town, people have an amazing capacity to sort of argue that up is down and left is right. But as an engineer, I sat down the morning the deal came out and I started highlighting numbers,” said New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, in a Tuesday interview with The Huffington Post.
Before he made it to Capitol Hill, the former Albuquerque city council member was a mechanical engineer with Philips Laboratories, now Air Force Research Labs.
Take politics out of the picture and look at the numbers, Heinrich said, and you get a clearer view of the deal.
“I think the numbers paint a very much more defensible and stable situation than what we’re faced with now,” the senator said.
Listing the benefits of the agreement, Heinrich noted that "you move from having 19,000 centrifuges [today], from Iran having 164 just a few years ago, and you reduce that by two-thirds."
"You take their stockpile," he added, "which has been at 20 percent -- which is very dangerous, easy to enrich to highly enriched, weapons-grade levels -- and you say, we’re going to get this stockpile and we’re going to reduce it down by 98 percent so they don't have enough to actually make a bomb.”
He also pointed out that the deal would reduce the number of nuclear facilities Iran is permitted to operate from three to one.
“All of that shows a move in the right direction,” Heinrich continued. “I think there’s a tendency among some of our colleagues who have argued against this from a political standpoint to want to compare the deal with the unicorn deal, the deal that sounds pretty but doesn’t exist in reality. And we don’t have that option. There are risks in a deal and there are much worse risks in not embracing this deal.”
Heinrich is one of three freshman Democratic senators who have made waves in recent months by driving a conversation about a new progressive foreign policy agenda. Heinrich, Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) co-wrote a Foreign Affairs op-ed last month that laid out their vision, emphasizing points like multilateralism, more effective foreign aid and a judicious approach to military engagement abroad.
The three senators sat down with HuffPost this week to talk about a number of foreign policy issues -- like a certain colleague with an unfortunate tendency to jump the gun.
Watch excerpts from Heinrich's interview, above.