Chuck Schumer Comes Out Against The Iran Nuclear Deal

The Iran nuclear deal will probably survive it's test in Congress in the end, but Chuck Schumer just made the Administration's job a little more difficult.

Iran Nuclear Deal CongressThe Obama Administration’s efforts to sell the Iran nuclear deal to Congress suffered a potentially significant setback last night when Chuck Schumer, the most prominent Jewish member of the Senate and the future leader of the Democratic Caucus, came out against the deal:

WASHINGTON — 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.”

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.

So far, 12 Senate Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent, Senator Angus King of Maine, have announced their support for the deal. Two others, Senator Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, and Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, have all but announced their support.

Support from Mr. King, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida had given momentum to the accord. And an announcement Thursday by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, that she would support the deal had also provided a boost.

But Mr. Obama needs 34 votes to sustain a promised veto of legislation disapproving the deal, which Republican leaders in the House and the Senate have promised to pass in September.

A veto override would be an enormous blow to the president’s prestige. It would torpedo an agreement between Iran and six powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — but it would not necessarily lead to the reimposition of crippling economic sanctions on Iran, supporters of the deal warn. With the other world powers supporting the agreement, the international sanctions regime would be likely to crumble, leaving the United States with far less effective tools to cripple Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

With so much on the line, Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee like Mr. Kaine had hoped to not only rally the 34 senators needed to sustain a presidential veto, but also to possibly keep enough Democrats behind the president to filibuster a resolution of disapproval next month. To do that, they most likely could lose only five Democrats. Mr. Schumer’s break with Mr. Obama will make that far more difficult.

Schumer’s announcement isn’t a complete surprise. Last week, there were signs that the New York Senator was leaning against supporting the deal for many of the same reasons that he cites in the statement that he released last night. Looking at the number, losing Schumer is not necessarily a huge deal for the Administration. At the same time that he was announcing his opposition to the deal, his fellow New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand was announcing her support for it. Additionally, over the past week Democrats such as Tim Kaine and Barbara Boxer, along with Independent Angus King, have come out in support of the deal and, as I’ve noted, it seems rather unlikely that opponents of the deal will be able to scuttle the deal by overriding President Obama’s expected veto. Losing Schumer, though, complicates things for the White House because it makes it likely that other members in the both the House and the Senate will follow him. Already, Schumer’s announcement seems to causing others to join him, most notably New York Congressman Elliot Engel. In addition to the loss of Congressman Steve Israel, who announced on Tuesday that he would vote against the deal, Schumer’s loss could end up causing other Democrats to vote against the deal as well, and that won’t look good for the Administration. Finally, as noted, losing Schumer means that supporters of the deal will likely be unable to filibuster the resolution of disapproval when it comes up for a vote in the Senate. In order to do that, Democrats will need at least 40 votes on a cloture motion and Schumer’s loss makes that already difficult task all the more difficult.

Notwithstanding Schumer’s announcement, though, it’s not at all clear that this is a fatal blow to the deal. Given the fact that Republicans control the House and Senate, it has been presumed for some time that the disapproval resolution will pass in both the House and Senate rather easily. The question that really matters is whether there will be sufficient votes in both bodies to override President Obama’s veto. As things stand right now, it doesn’t appear that will be the case in the House or the Senate, in no small part because it seems unlikely that Democrats would be willing to hand that kind of a defeat to President Obama on such an important issue. In fact, it’s quite possible that many of the Democrats who end up voting in favor of the disapproval resolution initially will turn around and vote against the veto override. This may be what ends up happening Schumer as well since his statement doesn’t definitively state that he’d vote to override a hypothetical veto of the disapproval resolution. Even if he does, though, the math required in both houses to get to the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto seems insurmountable. In the House, it would require 44 Democrats to join Republicans and in the Senate it would require 13 Democrats. It seems likely that Democrats will allow many members to vote in favor of the override just for their own political futures, but they will make sure that there isn’t a sufficient number to reach the required majority in either House. We won’t know until the votes are cast next month, though, and for the moment at least Chuck Schumer has made the Administration’s work just a little more difficult.

FILED UNDER: Congress, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    He has no business ever holding a Democratic Party office. He’s not a Democrat, he’s Likud.

    I will never give a dollar to this man, to any candidate he backs, to any organization he promotes or is a part of. He’s anathema to me, a traitor to his people, his party and his country.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    @michael reynolds: Agreed, he is nothing but an AIPAC tool. I have already sent letters to my two Democratic Senators insisting that he not take Reid’s place when he retires. I will also gladly donate money to anyone who wants to challenge him in the primary next election cycle.

  3. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: And here I was looking forward to the opportunity to vote against Andrew Cuomo in a primary…

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Chuck is no tool; he’s a true believer. Israel to him is the paradise of the Six-Day War, kibbutzes on hillsides, and Jerusalem. Everything around it is a dark force.

  5. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Is everything ok? You don’t seem like yourself lately.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Schumer is either playing politics because he’s pandering to his voters and doesn’t care what happens otherwise, or because he’s so dumb he doesn’t realize what will happen if this agreement fails.

    I sort of wish it WOULD, and China and Russia and Europe immediately throw up their hands and walk away from the table, saying “well, we tried, nothing’s going to satisfy you critters, so long, farewell”. Then turn around and immediately throw open all trade to Iran.

    Would serve Bibi and all his lackeys (i.e., 2/3rd of the US Congresscritters) right. Don’t any of these idiots understand the concept of multi-lateral negotiations? You don’t get the luxury of leaving the table in a pout and then whining that the rest of the guys made a decision without you.

  7. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I’m tired of this. The deal isn’t “all that and a bag of chips,” it doesn’t actually alter the basic landscape of Iranian nuclear development, Schumer’s objection that Iran will get a nuke in 10 years is a continuation of the “nuclear-free Iran” myth, and these guys should start understanding that their lunacy has meaning in real world terms.

    Let the memo disapproval resolution stand. They can solve the problem themselves. I understand that “this means war,” but I’m sorry, I have no kids or grandkids for them to take, and I’m too old to give a rip anymore. The GOP is the party of perpetual war. Live with it.

  8. Mr. Prosser says:

    What Zandar says, “This Schumer “defection” convinces me more than ever that the Iran deal will become law. The forms must be observed, and observed they will be. Schumer isn’t even trying to hide the fact he’s covering his ass with the AIPAC crowd at this point, and he knows he can get away with it. And he will.”

  9. Mike in FL says:

    This will be a disgrace if this doesn’t get through Congress on account of Democratic leadership. The safety of the region, our diplomatic credibility, and the strength of our international coalition is too important for nonsense like this.

    More importantly, how on Earth can the Democratic congressional leadership let the negotiations get THIS far and NOW start making objections/chickening out? Someone needs to get out there and whip some votes by whatever means necessary.

  10. stonetools says:

    Since the @$%&*(= comment system ate my long post twice, I’ll post my bullet points :

    1. Deeply disapointed but not surprised. AIPAC money is powerful.

    2. The agreement survives Congressional disapproval vote anyway.

    3. Schumer has disqualified himself from the post of Senate Minority Leader. I’m on Team Patty Murray.

    4. Kirsten Gillebrand has moved up my list of future Democratic Presidential nominees.

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    I really don’t care if Iran gets a nuke or two. I worry less about them than I do Pakistan or even Israel. The opponents see them as some sot of state suicide bomber – they are not. In spite of the rhetoric they are rational players who know that if they were to use a nuke their country would be turned into a sea of radioactive glass.

  12. Tillman says:

    Chuck knows the way the wind is blowing. Anyone recall how the convention in 2012 there was that voting kerfluffle over platform language concerning Israel and Palestine? Israel’s latest “mowings of the lawn” haven’t really endeared them to the progressive faction, and even the neoliberals think it’s distasteful.

    He figures, I’ve got this minority leader thing wrapped up, I can throw a bone to AIPAC now when I have literally no power, and let the politics play out when I have more (but still very little) power later. Presuming the Republicans keep the Senate after 2016. I haven’t read much on that front lately, shouldn’t a data journalist be on that?

  13. Modulo Myself says:

    Actually, ‘kibbutzes’ should be ‘kibbutzim’, I believe.

    Overall there’s very little daylight between Schumer’s position and the rest of the GOP. The basic premise is that Iran has no right to be a sovereign country. You can’t argue with that sort of nonsense. You just have to tell it to f–k off and die already.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    Schumer and Lieberman have always cared more about Israel than their own country.
    I could have told you weeks ago that Schumer was going to side with he who is perpetually wrong, Netanyahu. This is far from surprising.
    But look – it’s not anywhere near as bad as all the Republicans who vote for the NRA or the Koch brothers over their country.

  15. michael reynolds says:


    Well, I am a bit distracted by negotiating a book deal for a new trilogy, preparing for ten days of book tour in the UK, getting a son off to college and a daughter ready for high school, and fielding offers of a tour of New Zealand and Australia. Then there’s the fact that the driver’s side window on my Benz is still acting up and the neck-warming feature seems to have blown a fuse.

    Is that what you meant?

  16. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Around here we call him the Senator from Jerusalem. I keep hoping that a viable Democrat will challenge him. I’d (almost) rather have Al D’Amato back …

  17. T says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Then there’s the fact that the driver’s side window on my Benz is still acting up and the neck-warming feature seems to have blown a fuse.

    jesus, didnt you just buy that thing? it should have a fairly significant warranty…

  18. JohnMcC says:

    I drew a quick conclusion that Sen Schumer believes that he cannot stop a disapproval so voting for approval would be a throw-away vote. And that he has a not-insignificant part of his constituency that agrees with disapproval. Now, if he votes to overturn the veto on a close role call or he is shown whipping for disapproval among Dems, then turn all the calumny your imagination can come up with toward him.

  19. michael reynolds says:


    It’s about a year and a half old but the window thing has been an issue from about the first week. Very reassuring to have electronic glitches in a drive-by-wire car where my steering wheel is basically a game controller.

  20. Kylopod says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Chuck is no tool; he’s a true believer.

    I’m not so sure about that. This is the same guy who said we shouldn’t have passed Obamacare because it hurt the Democrats in the midterm elections. That’s not the sort of thing you say if you care more about policy than political gain.

    In any case, I think there’s a factor that someone mentioned in another thread, and which has been my experience as an NYC Jew myself, which is that NYC’s Jewish community is more right-wing about Israel than Jews in other parts of the country. Certainly, many of the politicians here seem to behave under that assumption. Remember Anthony Weiner? When he was in Congress, he seemed to be Likudnik when it came to Israel, and a Kucinich clone on everything else. That’s not out of the ordinary in these parts.

  21. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: I hope you will not find any disrespect in this little observation. None! But one of the ways I know that the world has changed completely in my lifetime is seeing jews driving german cars.

    And a much better world it is, too.

  22. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m worried about you, man. Can we start a kickstarter campaign to help you get through these hard times?

  23. Ron Beasley says:

    @Modulo Myself: Then he should move to Israel and save us from his mendacity.

  24. michael reynolds says:


    I thought about that before I started down the German car path. My thinking goes like this: It will be a hell of a day when a Jew starts believing in collective guilt. These Germans are not those Germans, and guilt attaches to individuals, not peoples. The German auto worker is no more responsible for gassing Jews than I am for crucifying Christ.


    Actually I was a bit worried since my last series bombed. I knew I’d have to take a haircut but as it turned out it was really just a trim. Now, if my next two series bomb I’m going to have to write porn for Amazon, but so far so good (touch wood).

  25. Tyrell says:

    Iranian government officials confirmed last week’s meteorite hits, with serious damage, but no reports about injuries. This week Iran has sweltered with unprecedented 165 degree temperatures. What could be next ?

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: My friend, you are such a treasure! For readers who don’t have the same barber or whatever:

    (There is a bonus feature wondering if the meteor is a sign of the coming appearance of the Mahdi.)

    And I checked on the 2-week weather in Tehran. The highest temp predicted is 102* and the lowest is 71*. Phoenix AZ should be so lucky.

  27. T says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Very reassuring to have electronic glitches in a drive-by-wire car where my steering wheel is basically a game controller.

    Walked out to my mailbox this evening and what is waiting for me? A lovely safety recall letter from Audi of America saying that my expensive german paperweight has to come in for a software update for the power steering.

  28. Tyrell says:

    @JohnMcC: Thanks for your interest in this subject. The 165 degrees is calculated wiith a heat index. Iran is under a rare ” heat dome.” These temperatures are in Bandar. So using that concept, 110 degrees in a US desert with very low humidity could be tolerable. More so than the sweltering 100 degrees and 70 % + humidity we have had in our area. It seems weird indeed to have high heat, high humidity, and parched earth all at the same time! (negative rainfall levels this summer.) I think this is the only area that can get weather like that. No cooling summer showers this year. What is next for Iran ?
    And look at California – drought, fires, and high winds coming in from the desert ! What is going on with that ?
    September – the Pope is coming to America ! Watch what happens.

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:


    which is that NYC’s Jewish community is more right-wing about Israel than Jews in other parts of the country.

    I think that depends on which NYC Jewish community is being discussed. The orthos out in Williamsburg? Oh yea, but for most every Reform and “Conservative” Jew that I know, including me, Israel is way down the list of the things that I / they base policy opinions on.

  30. Matt says:

    @JohnMcC: Hell I’m not in phoenix and I’d take those temps over what we have.

  31. David M says:

    The Iran agreement seems like the perfect chance to see if pundits and politicians have learned anything from the invasion of Iraq.

    It seems like the Democrats may have learned something, but the actions of Schumer and others opposing the deal are still concerning.

    However, it appears the GOP has learned all the wrong lessons, as they are failing this test horribly. I’m not quite sure why opposing this deal doesn’t automatically disqualify people as credible candidates for the presidential nomination.

  32. michael reynolds says:


    Wow, I was actually beating myself up for leaving Audi to go back to Mercedes. I’d had an A6 which I liked and respected but never quite loved. Mercedes is notorious for electronics issues.

  33. Xenos says:

    @michael reynolds: I drive a Citroen. Repeatedly in the shop during the first 60,000 km, nearly flawless for 100,000 thereafter.

    I would love to trade it in, but it gives me no excuse to do so. No wonder people resent the French.

  34. michael reynolds says:


    My two childhood car loves were the Jaguar XKE of course, and the early 60’s Citroen DS.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: How interesting! From USA Today (July31st): “Bandar Mahshahr Iran soared to a heat index of 163 degrees Friday afternoon….While the temperature was ‘only’ 115 degrees the dew point was an unfathomable 90 degrees. Baghdad sweltered to it’s all time record high….124 degrees. Iraq’s Council of Ministers declared a four day mandatory holiday…”

    And here in Tampa Bay we had 20 days without a glimpse of the sun as a ‘conveyor’ sucked equatorial moisture through the Caribbean and the Gulf and dumped it on my little boat (don’t tell the Tourism folks who told you). And there has not been a single tropical storm in the Atlantic.

    Gosh! You suppose that something is going haywire with the climate? Let’s ask Fox News!

  36. Tyrell says:

    @JohnMcC: Thanks for the comments.
    Here’s one for you: “Over the weekend in Iran, temperatures reached 165 degrees, one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on earth. In fact, it was so hot in Iran, American flags burst into flags on their on !” (J. Fallon)

  37. Kylopod says:


    I think that depends on which NYC Jewish community is being discussed. The orthos out in Williamsburg? Oh yea, but for most every Reform and “Conservative” Jew that I know, including me, Israel is way down the list of the things that I / they base policy opinions on.

    You do realize that about 40% of Jews in New York are Orthodox?

    That’s way more than in most other Jewish communities in the US.

  38. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I do. I also realize that means that 60% of us are NOT Orthodox. In fact, the majority of us are about as far from Orthodox as it’s possible to be 😀

    The point was that there is no monolithic Jewish community in NYC.

  39. Kylopod says:

    The point was that there is no monolithic Jewish community in NYC.

    Who said anything about monolithic? We’re talking about Yidden here! The point is that there has to be a reason you find so many Jewish politicians from New York with this odd profile of being liberal in general but kuku-right about Israel, and I think the disproportionate Orthodox presence might have something to do with it (remember, Orthodox only constitute about 10% of Jews in the country as a whole).

  40. grumpy realist says:

    @T: You think having a car doing that is bad? Wait until you have a plane give you the Big Blue Screen of Death.

    Gimme a traditional Cessna with a six-pack and I’m happy. One of the reason I never progressed further up the pipeline.