Deal Whip Count, Schumer Leadership Shows Democratic Opposition Growing

Though the President’s most partisan supporters call him a “traitor,” Democrats in the Senate are preparing to elect Sen. Charles Schumer as their next leader.  Meanwhile, an unofficial whip count by The Hill shows many Democrats opposed, and others leaning against the deal. 

In spite of the President’s own smear campaign against Sen. Schumer, even Schumer’s rivals for the leadership post will not turn against him in the press.  Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said that the decision about the Senate leadership post would not be “based on a single vote,” and that “Members of the caucus respect Chuck and know he’s gone through a thoughtful reflection.”  Durbin went on to say that he was unsurprised by Schumer’s opposition because it was based on long involvement in the debates, and “I have listened to him carefully and heard his comments about the negotiations carefully.”  Given that care, he said, his colleague’s opposition “didn’t come as a major shock or surprise.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow stated that comments from the White House against Schumer were “very unfortunate” and had “zero effect on him being a leader or an effective leader.”  Strong pro-deal Senator Brian Schatz agreed that he considered the matter a “vote of conscience,” and planned to support Schumer for leader in spite of this disagreement.  Sen. Jeanne Shaheen agreed that, while she supports the deal, it is “a difficult and consequential vote that each of us has to weigh individually,” and that she did not think it would in any way interfere with Schumer becoming the next Democratic leader in the Senate.

Meanwhile in the House, nine Democrats have come out against the deal and four more lean against it.  Rep. Steve Israel declared that the terms of the deal “compelled me to oppose it,” and Rep. Ted Deutch added that he “cannot support a deal giving Iran billions of dollars… in return for letting it maintain an advanced nuclear program[.]”  Among t hose leaning no, Rep. David Scott said that the deal is “a good deal for Iran, for Russia, China and probably Hezbollah, but it is not, definitely not a good deal for Israel or for the United States or our allies — especially Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”

The administration’s uneven use of attacks on Democrats who oppose the deal gives rise to questions about the fairness of the attacks.  While Sen. Schumer has come under harsh attack from the White House and its allies, Rep. Grace Meng — who called the deal “simply too dangerous” for Americans to support — has not come under any fire from the administration.  By the same token, Sen. Claire McCaskill’s continuing refusal to sign on to the deal was met by United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry with support verging on approval.  His remarks were to the effect that he respected the careful and deliberative process of consideration that she was employing in making her final decision.

Likewise, no apparent attacks from the administration have been leveled at United States Presidential candidate, former Senator and Secretary of the Navy James Webb.  He has come out firmly in opposition of the deal, which he says is “a bad deal.”  He went on to confront the President and his supporters directly on the content of their rhetoric.  Calling the administration’s description of the alternatives as the deal or war “false choices,” Webb wend on to say:

I think we need to put country ahead of party.  It troubles me when I see all this debate about whether this is disloyalty to the president or to the Democratic Party, particularly with what Chuck Schumer has gone through…. With all due respect, I think they were wrong, and I think they are wrong to criticize Chuck Schumer right now.

Why Meng, Webb and McCaskill have come under no similar rhetorical attack to Schumer, though some have speculated that anti-Semitism inside the White House is to blame.  However, it is possible that the rhetorical choices are strategic:  Meng is only an ordinary Representative and not a powerful Senator, McCaskill could still possibly be persuaded, and calling attention to Webb could risk boosting his standing in the Presidential campaign.  Even so, it appears that the Obama administration is on the verge of seeing a man its supporters label a “traitor” ascend to the leadership in the Senate in spite of the President’s attacks.