Update: Wasserman Schultz’s spokeswoman, Mara Sloan, said the claim [that she is opposing ratcheted-up Iran sanctions] isn’t true: “Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been a strong supporter of sanctions against Iran and will continue to be. She has cosponsored and voted for the additional sanctions bill that has already passed the house. Currently, there is not a resolution on sanctions offered in the House. As soon as one is filed, she will review the language, as she does with any legislation and decide whether it helps to ensure that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon.”
The earlier reports prompted the angry ad, above, from Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel. It pits the good Chuck Schumer against bad Debbie Wasserman Schultz on legislation to tie American policy against Iran to Israel’s decisionmakers.
“Pro Israel Democrats support new sanctions… She says she’s pro-Israel… Call Debbie Wasserman Schultz and tell her, stand with Israel.”
JTA says more than half the Senate is supporting the Iran sanctions bill in defiance of the president. But probably not enough to overcome a presidential veto.
The number of senators cosponsoring the bill, introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), reached 58 this week, up from just 33 before the Christmas holiday break.
Notably only one of the 25 who signed up in recent days — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — is a Democrat, a sign of intense White House lobbying among Democrats to oppose the bill.
A number of pro-Israel groups, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are leading a full-court press for the bill’s passage, with prominent Jewish leaders in a number of states making calls and writing letters to holdouts. Dovish Jewish groups such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now oppose the bill.
The bill would expand sanctions in part by broadening existing definitions targeting energy and banking sectors to all “strategic sectors,” including engineering, mining and construction. It would also tighten the definition of entities eligible for exceptions and broaden the definition of targeted individuals who assist Iran in evading sanctions.
The National Jewish Democratic Council, in an effort to back a Democratic president while not expressly opposing intensified sanctions, issued a mixed verdict on the bill, saying it does not support its passage at present though the option of intensified sanctions should remain open down the road if the president seeks it.
“We encourage Congress to support the President’s foreign policy initiative by making stronger measures available should they be required,” the statement said. “Final action on the legislation should be dependent upon Iran’s full compliance with its obligations.”
Rabbi Jack Moline, the NJDC’s executive director, accused AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee of “strong-arm tactics, essentially threatening people that if they don’t vote a particular way, that somehow that makes them anti-Israel or means the abandonment of the Jewish community.”
David Harris, the AJC’s executive director, said he was “shocked” by Moline’s allegations.
“We support the Iran sanctions bill, as do a bipartisan majority of U.S. senators,” he said. “Can a group differ with him on a critically important issue like Iran, where potentially existential issues are at stake, without being maligned or misrepresented, or is that the price we’re supposed to pay for honest disagreement?”
Meanwhile, the Democratic left is showing some signs of life around the measure. A friend writes:
Yesterday the Huffington Post had a prominent article again titled “White House Dares Saboteur Dems: ADMIT YOU WANT War.” After a few hours, it was replaced by a new version of the Christie story. It is still on the front page, but in a secondary location. This time the author is Ryan Grim, but the previous author, Jennifer Bendery, is cited as a contributor.
Yesterday the Democratic Underground had a front page article: “The White House is seething, and it wants everyone to know it.” The piece links to a Booman tribune article with the same theme “Bob Menendez is a Problem by BooMan.”
The White House on Thursday challenged a group of senators to admit they are working to push the country toward war with Iran, upping the tension between the administration and Senate advocates of tough new sanctions amid nuclear negotiations.
“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”
In both cases, the focus is on Bob Menendez. I looked at a few comments, but I didn’t see any that supported the AIPAC position. Perhaps the most important point is that they support the notion that AIPAC is becoming ineffective with applications of political pressure.