WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two-thirds of the Jewish lawmakers in Congress back the Iran nuclear deal in a tally finalized when Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida announced his backing.
The announcement by Grayson, a Democrat, came late Wednesday, the day deliberations began in Congress. His endorsement brings the number of backers among the 28 Jews in Congress to 19, with nine opposed.
Grayson, a candidate for the Senate, had had strong reservations about the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers. He signed off on his statement with a Yiddish proverb: “A shlekhter sholem iz beser vi a guter krig — A bad peace is better than a good war.”
“I wish that these negotiations had been used as a vehicle to bring peace to the region,” he wrote.
“But it’s too late for that now. The immediate question is a simple one: Is it more dangerous to have an agreement, or to have no agreement? On the evidence I see, it’s more dangerous to have no agreement. So I will be voting in favor of the Iran nuclear agreement.”
Republicans are united in their opposition to the deal, and so the focus of opponents of the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has been on Democrats, particularly Jewish Democrats in Congress. The Obama administration has similarly lobbied Jewish lawmakers and the Jewish community fiercely for the deal.
Congress has until Sept. 17 to reject the deal; Obama has already garnered enough support in both chambers to resist an override to the veto he has pledged to impose should Congress reject the deal, and he may even have enough backers on the Senate to shut down any such bill through a filibuster.
All but one of the 28 Jewish lawmakers – 19 in the house and nine in the Senate – are Democrats or caucus with Democrats.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., one of the first Jewish lawmakers to announce backing for the deal, excoriated deal opponents in her floor speech as debate began Wednesday on the deal. Boxer accused opponents of “dreaming or scheming — dreaming of a successful go-it-alone strategy or scheming for another war in the Middle East. Those options are self-inflicted wounds we can ill afford.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, meanwhile joined Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in introducing a resolution that would declare the deal undelivered to Congress – effectively extending Congress’ period to review the deal by at least 30 days.
The resolution says that the Obama administration did not fully comply with the law that starts the review clock ticking the moment Congress receives the deal. Lee and Pompeo, and a number of other Republicans in both chambers, say that Congress needs the text of a side agreement between Iran and the U.N. nuclear inspection agency on the terms of inspections before the review clock starts.
Obama administration officials say the agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency is not subject to U.S. control and is separate from the deal. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader in the Senate, suggested on Wednesday that he agreed with the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law.