Back when George W. Bush was president, it was always interesting to see where members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation would position themselves on Bush’s initiatives. Seemed like most of the time, Democrats stood uniformly in opposition — with the notable exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman, who showed his independence from them by supporting Bush’s Iraq war resolution and giving the commander-in-chief a peck on the cheek at the 2005 state-of-the-union address.
Rep. Nancy Johnson voted with Bush on many of his initiatives but parted ways with him on energy and environmental policy. She paid dearly, however, for authoring Medicare Part D, a Bush policy that provided prescription drugs for the elderly but prohibited the federal government from negotiating with the drug companies for cheaper prices.
But the current delegation’s position on the recently negotiated deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program has aroused my interest like few others. While President Obama has done his best to paint opponents of the deal as dupes, warmongers, or extremists, the reality is much more complex.
Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New Yorker who will likely become the next Democratic leader of the Senate after the hapless Harry Reid fades away into retirement next year, came out against the deal. As I’m sure Obama would admit, Schumer is hardly a trigger-happy victim of deception. He has good reasons for opposing the deal — some political, some substantive.
That said, it was hardly a profile in courage either. The normally camera-mugging Schumer made the announcement last Thursday night via press release as 24 million Americans were watching the buffonery of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential candidate debate on Fox News.
Make no mistake: Schumer’s announcement was significant — not so much for the vote counting, since a veto override would be a mountain to climb — but for the cover it will provide other Democrats who are wary of the deal that will be voted on next month.
Disclosure: I reluctantly support the deal. Without it, Iran could get a nuclear weapon in just a few months. The best guess is that even a coordinated military strike would only drive nuclear development underground and forestall it for about three years. The deal’s restrictions on centrifuges lasts for 10 years. On enriched uranium, 15 years. Both are contingent on the lifting of economic sanctions. If you view Iran’s nuclear development as inevitable — after all, as the old saying goes, you can’t bomb knowledge — then at least this deal allows us to manage the decline.
Where does Connecticut’s congressional delegation stand on the proposed agreement? Let’s start with the senators:
Earlier this month, Chris Murphy came out for the deal. The junior senator believes that if we reject the deal, it would actually be better for Iran: “American sanctions would remain, but the global sanctions regime would, at best, fray, and, at worst, fall apart. Iran would be able to resume its nuclear program, and our inspectors would be kicked out of the country, causing us to lose visibility of their potential progress toward a weapon.” My sentiments exactly, senator. Well said.
As of this writing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who like Schumer is Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, had not made up his mind. He issued a statement on July 14 that included the usual boilerplate of congratulations to the various parties for successfully negotiating the deal. But Blumenthal was quick to add that the agreement “must be airtight, comprehensive and enduring — and, perhaps most importantly, strictly verifiable and enforceable.” Might Schumer’s rejection of the deal give Blumenthal the cover he needs to do the same? Expect an answer soon.
Not to be outdone, the House delegation (all Democrats) are a mixed bag.
While acknowledging the imperfections of the deal, Reps. John Larson, 1st District, Joe Courtney, 2nd District, and Jim Himes, 4th District, have come out for the deal, while Rosa DeLauro, 3rd District, and Elizabeth Esty, 5th District, are on the fence.
If Esty or DeLauro were to come out against the deal, as Schumer did, it will be interesting to see if there are any repercussions. Obama is a lame duck. With Schumer’s announcement, the Democratic congressional leadership is divided.
In a paroxysm of hyperbole, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called the deal a “diplomatic masterpiece.” Now that’s more offensive than rejecting the agreement out of hand. There must be consequences. I smell another satirical piece in The Onion.
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