Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters MORE (N.Y.) and other Democrats are taking a wait-and-see approach to the Iran nuclear deal announced by President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Pelosi hilariously scolds media for not 'selling' .5T spending bill: 'Do a better job' MORE on Tuesday morning.
While prominent Republicans have already pounced on the accord as a mistake that will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Democrats have held their fire.
Schumer, who is poised to lead Senate Democrats in the next Congress, said he would go through the agreement with a “fine-tooth comb” and speak to administration officials.
He also urged against a rush to judgment.
“I supported legislation ensuring that Congress would have time and space to review the deal, and now we must use it well. Supporting or opposing this agreement is not a decision to be made lightly, and I plan to carefully study the agreement before making an informed decision,” he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race MORE (Nev.) also stopped short of endorsing the deal.
“The world community agrees that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable and a threat to our national security, the safety of Israel and the stability of the Middle East,” he said in a statement. “It is now incumbent on Congress to review this agreement with the thoughtful, level-headed process an agreement of this magnitude deserves.”
Under legislation signed by Obama, Congress will have 60 days to review the deal. Congress could pass a measure disapproving the deal, which Obama has already promised to veto.
The question then becomes whether there would be 67 votes in the Senate to override Obama’s veto. That would require at least 13 Democratic votes.
Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden Rand Paul blocks quick vote on House-passed B Iron Dome funding MORE (N.J.), a former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is the only Senate Democrat so far to publicly criticize the agreement.
“The bottom line is: The deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program — it preserves it,” he said in a statement.
He argued Iran will be required merely to limit its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief and does not have to submit to “anytime, anyplace inspections” of suspected nuclear sites.
“I’m concerned that the deal ultimately legitimizes Iran as a threshold-nuclear state. I’m concerned the redlines we drew have turned into green-lights,” he said.
Menendez's influence in the Democratic caucus has waned, however, since he stepped down as the senior Democrat on Foreign Relations after being indicted on corruption charges.
Other Democrats took a stance similar to Schumer's.
“My support for this deal hinges on whether we can verify that Iran’s paths to obtaining a nuclear weapon are thoroughly blocked,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a member of the Foreign Relations panel.
“I want to congratulate Secretary [of State John] Kerry, Secretary [of Energy Ernest] Moniz and the rest of the negotiating team for their tremendous persistence in reaching this agreement, and I look forward to a thorough review with my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee,” she added.
Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbent of the 2016 election cycle, echoed Reid’s caution.
“We will carefully scrutinize the terms of this agreement. The stakes are high, and the details of this deal matter,” he said.
“Congress has an important responsibility in this process, and playing politics right now is the last thing we need.”
He said a good deal would bring greater stability and security to the Middle East.
Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperIs the Biden administration afraid of trade? Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls Senate to try to pass 30-day highway bill Saturday after GOP objection MORE (D-Del.) urged Republican colleagues to review the deal more closely before blasting it.
“Almost immediately, this agreement — which none of my colleagues has read — has been denounced for any number of reasons. To the harshest critics among us, let me say this. Cool your jets. Let’s read the document,” he said in a statement.
One of the most enthusiastic responses in the Democratic caucus came from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination on a liberal platform.
“I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the leaders of other major nations for producing a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said in a statement. “This is a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East.”