By Bill Parry
President Obama got the necessary votes to assure the Iran nuclear deal would survive a congressional challenge when Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the 34th Democrat to support the agreement Wednesday. Lawmakers struggled with the decision on the deal that would ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) became the sixth House Democrat from New York to break with President Obama on the Iran nuclear agreement when she announced her opposition to the deal last week. Much of the opposition comes from New York, where pressure from the large Jewish community has been intense.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) Monday said he supports the agreement because “rejecting this deal would be a consequential and confounding mistake, and a return to the status quo or worse.” U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who represents parts of Maspeth, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Ridgewood, also endorsed the agreement Monday.
“There are strong arguments for and against the agreement, but as a matter of conscience, I have decided to oppose it,” Maloney said in a statement. She cited concern that even if Iran abides by the agreement, it would not stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons when the agreement ends.
While Maloney credited Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for “choosing the path of diplomacy,” she said it was with a nation that has failed to honor non-proliferation commitments in the past and the deal could make Iran even more dangerous as the pact would unfreeze more than $100 billion in Iranian assets.
“It will also gain access to billions more dollars as oil revenues increase,” Maloney said. “It is difficult to imagine that at least a portion of that massive windfall would not find its way into the hands of terrorists. Iran will continue bankrolling terrorist militias throughout the Middle East—Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad in Syria, Hamas in the GazaStrip and the Houthis in Yemen. And Iran continues to hold four American prisoners.”
Maloney is the 14th House Democrat to publicly oppose the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) was the first House Democrat to break with the president, Congressmen Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) is still undecided.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is one of two Senate Democrats to oppose the deal while U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has endorsed it.
Congress is expected to vote on a measure expressing disapproval of the deal next month. If that passes and Obama exercises his veto, two-thirds majorities in both chambers would be required to override.
“What we wanted out of this agreement was peace. But before the ink was dry, the mullahs were declaring, ‘Death to America,’” Maloney said. “Some believe that if we can just delay Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, a more moderate regime in a country with a young population will assume power and abandon Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We can hope for the best, but we need an agreement that assumes the worst.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr