Skip to content

Five House Democrats to Watch on Iran Vote

Engel is the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Engel is the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats no longer need to shore up the votes to sustain a presidential veto if Congress passes a disapproval resolution of the Iran nuclear deal 
the Senate took care of that Wednesday when it reached 34 votes that would sustain a veto. Senate Democrats have continued to add to that number, continuing with Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, the 38th to back the deal.  

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., still could show President Barack Obama that her caucus has his back and could provide a voting margin in the House that falls short of what’s needed to overcome a veto. There are holdouts, though, whose opposition won’t be helpful to the cause, and undecided members whose positions could be significant in swaying other Democrats.  

Here are some of those members to watch in the days ahead leading up to next week’s House floor action .  

1. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, N.Y.  The ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee could find himself in an uncomfortable spot. Since his committee has jurisdiction over the disapproval resolution, Engel under normal circumstances would be expected to manage speaking time for Democrats during floor debate. He opposes the deal, but it’s doubtful Engel would want to stand beside lead sponsor and Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., whose colleagues are likely to make rhetorical leaps from opposing the nuclear deal to denouncing Obama, further alienating Engel from proceedings.  

2. Rep. Nita M. Lowey, N.Y.  Talk of defunding Planned Parenthood in the fiscal 2016 government spending bill has drowned out talks of other policy riders for now. But considering the nuclear agreement negotiated by the United States and other world powers is now practically a done deal, Republican critics could use the appropriations process to undermine Obama administration priorities relating to Iran. Lowey, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, would be unlikely to aid Republicans who want to use spending bills to weigh in on the deal. Her opposition to the Iran deal, however, could make things awkward if Republicans choose that path.  

 Rep. Steve Israel, N.Y.  Like Engel and Lowey, Israel is a New York Jewish lawmaker, and he opposes the Iran deal as well. He has constituents who share his religion, and he’s loyal to the nation that shares his surname, which many people worry would be especially vulnerable to attacks from Iran under the pending nuclear agreement. The congressman is also a member of leadership whose job as chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee is to develop talking points that can resonate across the caucus. His opposition to the deal, though, puts him at odds with Pelosi in her efforts to line up votes.  

4. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Fla.  Another Jewish Democrat who is balancing faith, constituent representation and her role in leadership in her case as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Perhaps Wasserman Schultz, who has not yet said how she will vote, has it the hardest, as she tries to fend off criticism that opposing the deal her president supports would somehow make her unqualified to keep her job as head of the national party organization. She hosted Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at a constituent event in South Florida on Thursday, though, which might have cooled temperatures a bit.  

5. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Md.  The No. 2 House Democrat, who has strong tries to Israel interests and tends to be more hawkish on foreign policy matters, says he’s still undecided. It’s not clear whether Hoyer could actually flip votes or change minds at this point. And he’s not, even in his capacity as minority whip, whipping this issue. But Hoyer commands deep respect among members. However he votes, colleagues will pay attention.


Recent Stories

Total eclipse of the Hart (and Russell buildings) — Congressional Hits and Misses

House plans to send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate on Tuesday

Harris sticks with Agriculture spending, Amodei likely to head DHS panel

Editor’s Note: What passes for normal in Congress

House approves surveillance authority reauthorization bill

White House rattles its saber with warnings to Iran, China about attacking US allies