NY’s Meng is among first members of her party to buck administration pressure, declare plans to vote against agreement

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) (Wikimedia Commons)
Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) (Wikimedia Commons)


WASHINGTON — Hours after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that he believes he has enough Democratic votes to support a presidential veto should the Iran deal be voted down, a Democratic lawmaker announced Wednesday afternoon that she was opposed to the agreement signed earlier this month.

Rep. Grace Meng, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its subcommittee on the Middle East, wrote in a statement, “I strongly believe the world could and should have a better deal than that set forth in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which I will therefore oppose.”

Meng was an active participant inTuesday’s committee hearing at which Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sought to convince members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to back the controversial agreement.

The representative from New York’s Sixth District, which includes a large portion of the borough of Queens, has a strong record of support for pro-Israel initiatives. New York’s largely Democratic congressional delegation has been under careful watch in recent days for indication of how they will vote when Congress considers a resolution of either approval or disapproval of the Iran deal.

Sen. Charles Schumer, who represents New York and will succeed Sen. Harry Reid as Senate minority leader, has yet to express his final decision on the agreement. Schumer has in the past expressed guarded skepticism regarding the negotiations with Iran and is currently under intense pressure from lobbyists on both sides.

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein have already come forward in support of the deal, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Rep. Eliot Engel – like Meng, of New York – have both voiced serious doubts about the agreement.

In her statement Wednesday, Meng said that while she will “continue to study the finer points of the deal, they will not be dispositive for me.

“I believe the inspections procedures set forth are flawed — leading nuclear experts to assert that, pursuant to these procedures, inspectors would not necessarily know whether Iran is manufacturing uranium components for a nuclear weapon. This is unacceptable,” she said.

“Furthermore, I am deeply concerned that almost all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain intact; this leads me to believe Iran would simply resume its pursuit of a nuclear weapon at the conclusion of the deal in a decade’s time,” Meng continued. “Finally, the immediate sanctions relief provided Iran in the deal would incentivize the funding of terrorism and lessen Iran’s interest in restraining its nuclear ambitions over the long term.”

Congress is in the midst of a 60-day review period, after which it is expected to take a vote on a resolution of approval or disapproval of the deal, which the administration negotiated together with its P5+1 partners and Iran for over 18 months.

The Obama administration expects to lose a vote on a resolution in the Republican-controlled Congress. Instead, its main effort is to rally enough Democrats around the deal to ensure that a resolution of disapproval would garner less than a two-thirds majority. Earlier Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told reporters that the White House has enough support among Congressional Democrats “for [the deal] to be sustained” if Congress votes down the deal.

If the deal’s critics, which include almost all Republicans and key organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, manage to garner a two-thirds majority, Obama will be unable to veto a resolution of disapproval. In the absence of a presidential veto, the resolution will block the lifting of some of the sanctions against Iran – an outcome that administration officials warn could torpedo the entire nuclear deal and return Iran to full-scale uranium enrichment.

The deal’s critics say that blocking the deal would express the will of the American people – and that Iran could be convinced through tougher sanctions to return to the bargaining table and commit to a more rigorous framework.

Meng implied exactly such an outcome Wednesday, concluding that “the deal before us now is simply too dangerous for the American people” and that she has “every confidence a better deal can be realized.”

The administration has pushed Democratic lawmakers hard, warning that the president will hold a “no” vote against them. Obama has conducted a series of meetings with Congressional Democrats – in fact, one such meeting at the White House was scheduled for Democratic lawmakers Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the administration received a key vote of support from 17-term Jewish lawmaker Rep. Sander Levin.

In a statement, Levin explained his support for the deal by writing that he “believe[s] that Israel, the region, and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon.”

“I believe the agreement is the best way to achieve that,” Levin continued. “In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult.”

As reported by The Times of Israel