Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he would oppose the Iran nuclear deal Thursday, ending speculation over how one of Congress’ most influential Jewish voices would vote.
“Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed,” Schumer said in a statement. “This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavor, and after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval.”
It’s believed that Schumer is set to become the leader of the Democrat Party when Harry Reid (D-NV) retires. He’s come under pressure in recent weeks from some Jewish leaders who have pushed him to vote against the deal. And on Thursday, he joined fellow New York Congress member Eliot Engel, who is also the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member, in opposing the deal.
“Like many Jewish Democrats, Mr. Schumer approached the agreement under pressure from his constituents, the administration, and his own personal history and faith,” the New York Times reported on Thursday.
And while Schumer says he went through the deal with a “fine-tooth comb” before deciding, some believe he waited until the Democrats seemed to have secured enough votes for the deal before he announced his position.
“One source close to the New York delegation’s discussions told CNN that Schumer was expected to hold off making his opposition public until the math was clear that Republicans wouldn’t be able to assemble votes for an override, though the source thought Schumer would wait until the fall to announce,” CNN reported on Friday.
Obama has stated that he would veto Republicans objection to the nuclear deal, in which case the Senate would need two-thirds to override the veto. While Congress’ Republicans are basically united in their opposition to the deal, a few Democrats have also decided to vote it down.
To date, 13 Senators have come out in full support of the deal. For the deal to remain in place the administration would need 34 Senators to support a veto of the disapproval legislation. In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been rallying the 146 House Democrats to support the deal, despite the objections of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The vote will occur in mid-September, 60 days after the agreement was initially reached.
In addition to Schumer and Engel, New York Democrat Reps. Steve Israel, Nita M. Lowery, Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) all have come out against the deal. All of them represent areas with large Jewish communities who are likely concerned about Iran’s anti-Israeli rhetoric and Netanyahu’s fervent opposition to the deal.
Since Schumer announced his decision on the website Medium last night, he has also faced criticism.
Anti-war advocacy group MoveOn threatened to withhold $10 million in contribution money. “No real Democratic leader does this,” MoveOn wrote in a statement. “If this is what counts as ‘leadership’ among Democrats in the Senate, Senate Democrats should be prepared to find a new leader or few followers.”