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New York U.S. Senate Delegation splits on Iran Nuclear Plan

The New York Times and Medium reported a split decision in the New York Senate delegation over the mid-September vote on the Iran nuclear pact.  Senator Charles Schumer came out in opposition; Senator Gillibrand came out in favor, despite some misgivings.  Looks like President Obama might have a problem gathering votes among the remaining undecided Democrat Senators.  The Times reported:

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.”

Mr. Schumer had spent the last several weeks carrying a dog-eared copy of the agreement in his briefcase and meeting with Mr. Obama and officials like Wendy R. Sherman, the deal’s chief negotiator. With his decision, he paves the way for other Democrats on the fence to join Republicans in showing their 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.”

New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced her support for the Iran pact in a Medium report:

I have decided to support this deal after closely reading the agreement, participating in multiple classified briefings, questioning Energy Secretary Moniz and other officials, consulting independent arms control experts, and talking with many constituents who both support and oppose this deal. Here is why I believe this imperfect deal is worthy of Congressional approval:

  • First, Iran made essential concessions in the deal. After the failure of the 2004 Paris Agreement, Iran was defiant; it refused to negotiate seriously, it was uncooperative with international weapons inspectors, and it vowed never to cave to pressure and dismantle its nuclear production, which increased dramatically during the Bush years. Now, Iran has signed on to a sufficiently verifiable and enforceable deal that cuts off all paths to a bomb and has its entire nuclear supply chain closely monitored for years to come. A deal like this, widely supported by independent nuclear arms control experts, was unimaginable just a few years ago.
  • Second, this deal will provide international nuclear inspectors with access that they otherwise would not have had — and never will have if we reject this agreement. We will begin robust worldwide monitoring of Iran’s nuclear supply chain — uranium production, plants that convert uranium into a centrifuge-ready gas, centrifuges, uranium stockpiles, and spent nuclear fuel that contains plutonium — and inspectors will retain the right to request access to suspicious sites forever.
  • Third, while I’m skeptical that Iran won’t try to deceive us and our partners in this agreement, we’ll be in a better position to catch those attempts due to the monitoring and verification mechanisms that this deal secures. If Iran pursues a nuclear weapon, international inspectors and intelligence operations will know faster than ever before. We will then be able to snap back all of the American and United Nations sanctions, even unilaterally, and all options — including military action — will be on the table.

[…]

There are legitimate and serious concerns about this deal. For example, I would have liked to see a period shorter than 24 days to resolve disputes over access for inspectors. The U.N. embargoes on the sales of arms and ballistic weapons to Iran should have remained in place permanently, instead of lapsing after five and eight years. Hostages remain in Iranian custody. We will have to work hard to fight Iran’s malign efforts to wreak havoc in the region. While all of these issues are important, no issue matters more than ensuring that the Iranian regime does not have a nuclear weapon at its disposal.

So while upstate New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand chose to support the President’s Iran nuclear deal downstate Senate colleague and future Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer elected to oppose President Obama announcing he would vote to reject the Iran nuclear pact.

At the Times Square Rally on July 22nd you may recall there were shouts of “where was Chuck?” Looks like he succumbed to the thousands of calls from constituents, major donors and possibly the tawdry hearing record of facts piling up in Congressional testimony about how bad the deal was hailed by the President and Secretary Kerry.

The importance of Schumer’s decision will not be lost on the White House. Let’s see if this translates into a potential no vote by many of the remaining undecided Democrats in the Senate.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.