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In Blow To Obama's Iran Deal Hopes, Key Democrat Defects

GOP Presidential hopefuls expressed plenty of distaste for the Iran nuclear deal during last night’s debate, but it was the voice of a Democrat that mattered most on Thursday evening as Chuck Schumer, the influential Jewish Senator from New York, came out in opposition to the accord.

As Congress heads into the summer recess, President Obama made one last push to secure support for the deal, delivering a fiery speech on Wednesday and warning of dire consequences if the agreement isn’t secured.

As CNN reports, "Republicans have scheduled a mid-September vote on a resolution to reject the Iran deal, which is expected to pass," but will need to 44 and 13 Democrats in the House and Senate respectively to break party ranks in order to override Obama’s veto. 

While some say Schumer’s decision is a win for the Republicans, others claim it actually proves that Obama has effectively already succeeded in efforts to build a "firewall" against defectors. Here’s The New York Times:

Senator Chuck Schumer, the most influential Jewish voice in Congress, said Thursday night that he would oppose President Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

 

"Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed," Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a lengthy 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."

 

“There are some who believe that I can force my colleagues to vote my way," Mr. Schumer said."While I will certainly share my view and try to persuade them that the vote to disapprove is the right one, in my experience with matters of conscience and great consequence like this, each member ultimately comes to their own conclusion."

 

As if on cue, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was widely expected to oppose the deal, announced his opposition Thursday night.

 

Mr. Schumer said his chief concern was that Iran would still be free after a decade to build a nuclear bomb. His announcement comes as Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, labors to build a firewall in the House in support of the deal, which has been denounced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. At six meetings in recent weeks, Ms. Pelosi has assembled an informal team of Democrats determined to win over the 146 House Democrats needed to uphold a veto.

 

But Ms. Pelosi’s team had had its eye on Mr. Schumer, conceded Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois and one of Ms. Pelosi’s deputies on the Iran deal. Ms. Schakowsky said that Democratic leaders had never put Mr. Schumer "in the 'yes' column," but that “the calculation still is we’ll have the votes" even without him.

Indeed The White House - which of course could simply be feigning confidence so as not to rattle Democrats who intend to toe the party line - believes Schumer only felt comfortable going public with his intention to oppose the deal because he knows Obama has the support he needs to uphold a veto. "But the decision to make his position public on the heels of a string of endorsements was being seen in the White House as a signal that it has a veto-proof number of supporters and it was safe for Schumer to oppose the deal without jeopardizing the President's agenda," CNN claims.

Unsurprisingly, John Kerry isn't happy with Schumer or with Engel for that matter. Here's AP:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he "profoundly disagrees" with the reasoning behind 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 the Senate's No. 3 Democrat Chuck 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.

 

Schumer and Engel, both from New York, made their announcements on Thursday. Schumer is the first Democratic senator to say he will vote no on the deal, which would curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from crippling sanctions.

It's "physically impossible to build a bomb" with uranium tracking, Kerry said, a protestation that won't likely impress Schumer, who bemoaned the fact that the deal won't allow for inspections "anywhere, anytime", and worse, that America can't demand inspections "unilaterally" (which is of course Washington's preferred way of getting things done foreign policy wise). 

Whatever the case, a showdown looms in September when we'll see whether the President can manage to hang on to a deal which many see as key to his legacy. If he fails and his veto is overridden, "it would be an enormous blow to the [the president's] prestige," and would put Britain, France, and Germany in a kind of no-man's land, while Russia and China would likey view the debacle as still another example of why America is no longer in any position to lead a unipolar world.