Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) endorsement of the Iran nuclear deal makes it increasingly likely that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) will be on the outside looking in when lawmakers debate and vote on the agreement next month.
In a lengthy statement, Murray, the No. 4 Senate Democrat, admitted she has doubts about the pact between Western powers and Iran but rejected the argument by opponents to reject it and “go back to the negotiating table and try to get a better deal.”
”I am convinced that moving forward with this deal is the best chance we have at a strong diplomatic solution. It puts us in a stronger position no matter what Iran chooses to do, and it keeps all of our options on the table if Iran doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. I believe that rejecting this deal would continue Iran down the path they are currently on--it would do nothing to stop their short-term ability to develop a nuclear weapon,” she said.
The announcement completes the split between Schumer, the presumptive next Democratic leader, and the rest of his party’s current leadership over the nuclear deal. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) came out for the agreement last weekend and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the minority whip, is the deal’s top vote counter.
Murray’s announcement makes her the 29th Democrat to back the accord and puts President Obama five votes away from the 34 necessary to sustain a veto in the Senate.
Schumer’s reputation received a knock on Monday when Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) a close ally of the New York Democrat, said she would vote for the deal when it comes to the floor next month.
If the number of ‘aye’ votes does reach the magic number, it could renew chatter among Democrats about why Schumer, their anticipated leader, came out against the agreement and potentially endangered what would be one of the president’s major foreign policy achievements.
Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ) is the only other Democrat to say he will vote against the accord, arguing, as Schumer did, that it does not go far enough to protect Israel.
Not that Schumer will be sitting on his hands all month. Being on the sidelines during the Iran debate -- which is expected to dominate Capitol Hill for a few weeks if not longer -- could free him up to lead the charge on one of the many issues facing lawmakers when they get back, including figuring out a path forward on must-pass spending bills to stave off a government shutdown.