In a move seen as a major blow to the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D – NY), one of the most influential “undecided” votes in the Senate, has announced that he has decided to oppose the deal, and will encourage other Democrats to do the same.
Sen. Schumer had been a major target of Israel Lobby pressure in recent days to vote against the deal, and his broad influence was seen as a potential inducement to other Democrats to go along. Schumer insisted his position was the result of “considerable soul-searching.”
Under intense pressure from AIPAC, Sen. Schumer was seen to be facing the “toughest vote of his career,” though Democrats who still support the nuclear pact remain confident that they can get it through even without Schumer, and without the hangers-on he’s liable to bring with him to the “no” side.
“Anybody whipping his never put Schumer in the yes column,” noted Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D – IL), saying her calculation is that there will be enough votes to prevent Congress from blocking the international deal outright.
Where those votes are coming from is unclear, however, particularly in the Senate. 13 Senators, 12 Democrats and an independent, have come out in favor of the deal, and two other Democrats are seen as likely backers, but with the Republicans expected to oppose the deal pretty much uniformly, the path to the 34 votes needed to support a presidential veto of Congress killing the deal is non-obvious.
Ad campaigns hostile to the nuclear deal, funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by the same lobbyists, have eroded what was once solid public support for the deal, and recent polls suggest that whether the American public will go along largely depends on how the deal is described to them by pollsters.
With powerful lobbying groups threatening to make hay of the issue in the next election, many in Congress are facing a tough decision on how to vote, knowing that there is big money that is likely to be turned against them if they don’t go along in trying to block the pact.
Even if the US Congress does block the deal, White House officials warn it likely won’t stop it internationally. The other P5+1 member nations have already committed to the deal with Iran, and are not likely to renege on it just because America is. Rather, it may put the US in a more isolated position diplomatically, and struggling to justify their policy to other nations who have already come to terms with Iran.