Schumer, senior US Senate Democrat, opposes Iran deal
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a senior member of U.S. President Barack Obama’s ruling Democratic Party, who is widely expected to be the party’s next leader in the U.S. Senate, has said he will oppose the Iran nuclear deal in spite of Obama’s intense lobbying in favor of the accord.
The deal, struck last month with Tehran and Western powers, would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of U.S. dollars in relief from crippling sanctions.
“The very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great,” Schumer said in opposing the pact. He said he based his decision on the nuclear and nonnuclear elements of the accord and on the question, “Are we better off with the agreement or without it?”
A leading Jewish Democrat, Schumer was the first senator of Obama’s party to step forward to oppose the deal. His announcement Thursday night came just hours after two other Senate Democrats — Kirsten Gil- librand and Jeanne Shaheen — announced their support for the international accord.
“After deep study, careful thought and considerable soulsearching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval,” he said in a statement issued weeks before he will cast a vote.
The administration, which has lobbied intensely for the pact, has secured the backing of more than a dozen Democrats in the upper house Senate and more than twodozen Democrats in the lower house, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Members of the opposition Republican Party, which controls the House and Senate, have been uniformly opposed to the deal.
The House of Representatives and Senate will begin debate on a resolution of disapproval when lawmakers return to the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C. on Sept. 8 after their August recess. The administration needs Democratic support to sustain a widely expected veto by Obama of any resolution of disapproval.
Schumer’s decision was a blow to the administration, though it remained to be seen how many other Democratic lawmakers would follow the long-serving senator. He informed the White House of his decision Thursday afternoon. New York Rep. Eliot Engel, who is Jewish and the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that he too would oppose the deal.
John Kerry Profoundly
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he “profoundly disagrees” with the reasoning be- hind decisions by two prominent Democratic lawmakers to vote against the nuclear deal he negotiated with Iran.
Speaking in the Vietnamese capital, Kerry said the facts do not bear out the arguments made by Schumer, and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel. He said he respects the right of lawmakers to make their own decisions about the merits of the deal, but said rejection does not offer any alternative than a drumbeat to conflict.
Kerry said he has great respect for both Engel and Schumer, and called Schumer a friend, noting he served with him in the Senate.
“I obviously profoundly disagree with the judgments made,” Kerry said. He said that with 25 years of uranium tracking, “it is physically impossible to build a bomb.”
“It’s a question of eliminating options in a realistic way,” he added. “I would respectfully suggest that rejection is not a policy for the future, it does not offer any alternative.”
Kerry said that if the deal is rejected, “there will be a hue and cry about Iran’s continued activity and that will lead people to put pressure on military action since the United States would have walked away from the diplomatic solution.”
The powerful pro- Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee is vehemently opposed to the deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced as undermining the security of Israel and the region. Opponents of the pact have targeted Schumer in campaign- style ads.
In this July 22 file photo, Sens. Charles Schumer, of the ruling Democratic Party, left, and Orrin Hatch, of the opposition Republican Party, arrive for a classified briefing by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Iran, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.