UPDATE 1 (Aug. 21, 11:45 am): Congressman LoBiondo’s staff has emailed to suggest “update your scorecard – he’s been a NO for quite a while.”
UPDATE 2 (Aug. 21, 4:15 pm): Congressman Garrett’s office reached out to say “Rep. Garrett has always been opposed to the nuclear arms deal with Iran and has a number of press releases, social media posts and items on his website stating his position. He is a firm no.”
UPDATE 3 (Aug. 21, 4:17 pm): “Cong. Smith is not undecided on this issue,” according to a staffer who emailed PolitickerNJ.
UPDATE 4 (Aug. 26, 1 pm): “Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen … has been a hard ‘no’ for quite some time,” according to a staffer who emailed PolitickerNJ.
One of the most fascinating and far-reaching decisions being debated right now by our Representatives and Senators involves the pending resolution opposing on President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. That resolution opposing the deal is widely expected to pass and just as widely expected to be vetoed by the President. Assuming all Republicans vote to override the veto, the President would need about 33 Democratic Senators and 146 Democratic House Members to side with him to prevent the two-thirds needed to sustain a veto.
Here’s our assessment of where New Jersey’s delegation stands.
Bob Menendez — NO. Bob Menendez has become something of a folk hero to the state’s large Jewish population by leading the charge among Democrats in opposing their party’s leader. So far, he and New York’s Charles Schumer are the only two Democratic Senators who have announced their opposition, and Menendez did so with an exclamation mark, telling a Seton Hall audience “My overarching concern is that it requires no dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and only mothballs that infrastructure for ten years.”
Cory Booker — LIKELY YES. New Jersey’s junior senator is in a strange place. He is a staunch supporter of the President and as the only African-American Democratic Senator will be relied upon by the White House for support, a relationship that Booker has cultivated and maintained. At the same time, Booker enjoys unusually close ties to the Jewish community, who have been generous in supporting his meteoric rise. His decision, which PolitickerNJ scores as leaning toward yes, will be closely watched.
Donald Norcross — NO. Having recently returned from a trip to Israel, Norcross is a Democratic no. “Iran must never be allowed to become a nuclear threat to the world. Not today. Not 10 or 15 years from now. Never.”
Frank LoBiondo –
LIKELY NO. NO (see Update 1). LoBiondo hasn’t publicly announced his opposition yet, but as a Republican Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who has said he’s “deeply skeptical of negotiating with Iran,” he’s a near certain no.
Tom McArthur – NO. New Jersey’s newest Congressman also came back from a trip to Israel full of Maccabean fire. He said, “The president is … offending his friends and trusting his enemies. Both the Israelis and the Saudis oppose this deal, and they don’t agree on a lot of things.”
Chris Smith —
LIKELY NO. NO (see Update 3). Unannounced, but the Republican senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would shock the world if he sided with the President.
Scott Garrett —
LIKELY NO. NO (see Update 2). A Libertarian-leaning Republican, Garrett is unpredictable and there’s a strong streak of Ron/Rand Paul to him when it comes to meddling in foreign affairs. Still, with his deepest vulnerability coming from the highly Jewish part of Bergen County and fresh off remarks many perceived as homophobic, it’s hard to picture even a feather ruffler like Garrett going against the grain. A press release from his office said that “Any agreement that allows Iran to acquire, build, or proliferate nuclear weapons—now or in the future—is a threat to the United States and its allies.”
Frank Pallone — TOSS-UP. Democrat Pallone has many pro-Israel constituents in his shore-based district and a vote for the deal would hurt his fundraising and his long-held statewide ambitions. But, as ranking member on Energy & Commerce, he has a problem no unlike Booker’s — he needs the White House. Pallone is the only NJ lawmaker not to have issued a public statement on his Congressional website, a testament to the touchiness of this issue for him.
Leonard Lance — LIKELY NO.
Bill Pascrell — TOSS-UP. Pascrell is in a fascinating situation. He has many Jewish constituents, some of whom remember all too well how pro-Arab Pascrell was regarded when his former district included more Passaic than it does now that it’s mostly Bergen. And yet, most of the Sunni Arabs Pascrell represents and has courted heavily are just as distrustful of Iran and worried about this deal. There is no love lost between Pascrell and President Obama, who backed Steve Rothman in their bitter 2012 incumbent-on-incumbent primary. If Pascrell were to vote yes, people like David Steiner, the NJ real estate developer and former President of AIPAC who sits on the board of the Port Authority, would likely never give him another nickel. In a reflection of the precarious position in which Pascrell has been placed, his press release is comically dumb, beginning “I appreciate the hard work of our international negotiators” and actually getting worse from there.
Albio Sires – NO. Another Democrat who has broken with the President. “I am opposed to the current proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, I do not feel the agreement will prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Donald M. Payne – YES. New Jersey’s one declared yes doesn’t even sound thrilled about it. “I did not make this decision lightly, nor did I make it based on trusting Iran.” Payne’s district is so safe that he faces no meaningful threat no matter how he votes, but his yes, considering that he represents many Jews in South Orange, part of West Orange, Maplewood and Hillside, will at least earn him some grumbling, if not a legit primary challenge. An interesting wrinkle is that Payne’s career is largely dependent on the support of the Essex organization, but Joe DiVincenzo and Dick Codey operate in permanent fear of irritating Jewish constituents. It will be interesting to see if they pressure him to do some Jewish outreach after his YES vote.
Rodney Frelinghuysen —
LIKELY NO. NO (see Update 4).The Morris County Republican has yet to declare but issued a statement that was unusually blunt for the mild-mannered old-school New Jerseyan: “The Iranian agreement appears to be a major victory for Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and a regime with American blood on its hands.”
Bonnie Watson Coleman — LIKELY YES. Watson Coleman joined Norcross and MacArthur on the trip to Israel, but has not yet announced her position. Still, her support base is firmly behind the President and it’s difficult to picture her publicly distancing herself from him in his hour of need.