One of the Senate’s most powerful Democrats has come out against the President’s Iran deal, making a statement that, despite some kind words for the President and the Secretary of State, the White House won’t like. Sen. Schumer (D-NY), the presumptive next Democratic Senate Minority or Majority Leader, wrote earlier tonight:
Using the proponents’ overall standard — which is not whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it — it seems to me, when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.
Sen. Schumer’s conclusion undermines one of the Administration’s main talking points, that the only choices are this deal or war:
To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.
Therefore, I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power. Better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.
For all of these reasons, I believe the vote to disapprove is the right one.
This is more than a break with the President’s political position; it is a repudiation of the President’s whole approach to the Iran debate. President Obama has pulled out all the stops to argue that opponents of his Iran deal are aligned with America’s enemies. Now one of the Senate’s most respected Democrats says that the country would be better off if Congress trashes the President’s signature diplomatic accomplishments. Does President Obama think Senator Schumer is in league with the Iran Revolutionary Guard? Or does he think he’s a secret Israeli agent who is disloyal to the United States?
Senator Schumer’s dissent will not, by itself, kill the deal. But it’s not good news for the White House. Schumer’s dissent will give cover to other Democrats; it shows that the core of the party is divided over the deal — and it means that other senators who break with the White House may not face severe punishment by Senate leaders. With over a month left on the Corker-Menendez vote clock, and the August recess ahead, this is not a statement that the White House wanted to see.