Jewish Democrats splitting on Iran deal

Three prominent Jewish Democrats in the House of Representatives came out in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal this week, while two others — one in the House, one in the Senate — announced their support.

Reps. Nita Lowey and Steve Israel, both of New York, and Ted Deutch of Florida announced their opposition on Aug. 4. Lowey is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Deutch is the ranking Democrat on the House Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, and Israel until last year led the House Democratic re-election effort.

They are the first leading Democrats and the first Jews in their party to oppose the deal — which until now had garnered opposition from only four Democrats, none in leadership positions.

A larger number of Democrats have declared their support for the deal, among them Jews who hold leadership positions or are veterans in Congress: California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, chief deputy whip in the House; and Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

They were joined on Aug. 4 by California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She announced her support for the deal one day after Rep. Adam Schiff, D.-Burbank, Calif., the senior Democrat on the House’s intelligence committee, came out in favor.

Schiff and Boxer were among the 27 Jewish Democrats in Congress under scrutiny in the battle over the deal waged between the Obama administration, which backs it, and Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which oppose it.

Lowey, Israel and Deutch, in statements and op-eds in hometown newspapers, said they considered carefully before reaching their decisions.

“This agreement will leave the international community with limited options in 15 years to prevent nuclear breakout in Iran, which will be an internationally recognized nuclear threshold state,” Lowey said in a statement. “I am greatly concerned that the agreement lacks a crystal clear statement that the international community reserves the right to take all military, economic, and diplomatic measures necessary during the course of the deal and beyond to deter Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon.”

Boxer, in her statement favoring the accord, called it “the only viable alternative to war with Iran.”

Congress has until mid- to late September to vote on the pact. Obama has pledged to veto any rejection of the deal, and the House and Senate both would need a two-thirds majority to override his veto.

Most Republicans oppose the deal, so the battleground will be among Democrats. — jta