The chamber of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Pressure is mounting on New York’s Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to oppose the Obama administration’s chief diplomatic achievement: Its nuclear accord with Iran.
The senator has over six weeks – when Congress will vote on whether to approve or disapprove of the agreement – to decide where he falls. But so far, every member of Congress representing New York that is publicly declared on the matter has said they will oppose it.
That group now includes four Democrats in the House of Representatives: Grace Meng (D-NY 6th District), Kathleen Rice (D-NY 4th District) and, as of Tuesday, Nita Lowey (D-NY 17th District) and Steve Israel (D-NY 3rd District).
Lowey is the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and one of the party’s most senior Jewish members. Israel is the highest- ranking Jewish member in the House and served as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2014 election cycle.
“I tried very hard to get to yes,” Israel said. “But at the end of the day, despite some positive elements in the deal, the totality compelled me to oppose it.”
Their opposition was announced several hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the US Jewish community via live telecast, urging it to unite in opposition to the agreement.
The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, seeks to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran’s nuclear work in exchange for permanent sanctions relief.
US President Barack Obama says the deal achieves Washington’s long-sought goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Critics dispute this claim, arguing that the deal guarantees Tehran will become a nuclear- threshold state, with full international legitimacy, in 10 to 15 years.
“This agreement will leave the international community with limited options in 15 years to prevent nuclear breakout in Iran, which will be an internationally recognized nuclear threshold state, capable of producing highly enriched uranium,” Lowey said on Tuesday. “I remain hopeful that the administration and Congress, in concert with our P5+1 and regional allies, can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Growing New York opposition to the deal further highlights the predicament facing Schumer, who is slated to become the next leader of the Senate Democratic caucus.
In Washington, Schumer’s decision to oppose the president on a signature issue may put his future leadership position at risk.
But should he declare his intentions early, several Democrats in the Senate may also follow suit. Thus far, 10 Democratic senators have declared their support for the deal, while none have declared opposition.
Also on Tuesday, Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL 21st District) – also Jewish – declared his disapproval.
“After a decade in public life working to stop Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons, I cannot support a deal giving Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief – in return for letting it maintain an advanced nuclear program and the infrastructure of a threshold nuclear state,” Deutch said in an op-ed published in the Sun Sentinel.
But Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, announced his intention to vote for the deal earlier in the day, citing a lack of alternatives. Joining him in support were senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Barbara Boxer (D-California), a senior Jewish lawmaker.