How Will Jewish Members Vote?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Jewish Members of Congress—Ten Senators (all but one—Senator Bernie Sanders [Ind]) Democrats and 19 House Members all Democrats except Republican Representative Lee Zeldin from New York, are like deer caught in sets of headlights. They want to heed the voices emanating from AIPAC and from most major Jewish organization leaders who are urging that they vote to reject the agreement with Iran. The Jewish community has put down a marker for them indicating it believes they ought to reject the President’s urgings. These Jewish leaders as well as the rank and file advise their Jewish Members not to reject their political allegiances to the President and support the survival of their brothers and sisters in Israel.
These Members will face President Obama’s call for support from his party for this critical deal. Obama will call in his chits—something he hates to do and is notorious weak at playing. The Republicans have made this a partisan issue as well as a substantive one. The President feels he wants his troops to support the deal, even if they have reservations about the deal. He may even need all their votes especially in the Senate.
The key vote among the Jews in Congress belongs to Senator Chuck Schumer, who has already been tapped by the retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid to be the incoming leader of Senate Democrats in 2017. Schumer a Jewish Senator from Brooklyn, New York, has always been seen as a point person on all issues related to Israel and Jewish concerns; first as a Member of the House and now in the Senate. Should he reject the President’s wishes, it will undoubtedly provide political cover for other Democratic Jewish House and Senate Members to do likewise. Similarly, if Schumer supports the Iran agreement, Jewish Democrats will be hard-pressed to buck their Party’s leader and the President.
This is a possible scenario being discussed which would provide key Members at least some form of rationale as to how to navigate this apparent dilemma. The possible compromise would be for Jewish Democrats, who are being seriously pressured by their Jewish constituents, to vote against the deal when it comes to Floor. Assuming that Congress blocks the agreement and then the President vetoes the action of the Congress, Jewish Members then could sustain the President’s veto by arguing that while they oppose the agreement, they respect the President’s constitutional prerogative in foreign policy making. While this is a bogus argument, it would provide Jewish Members some cover and the ability to satisfy, somewhat, both sides.