By Rachel Weiner,
Even as his colleague from Maryland on Wednesday provided the final vote needed for President Obama’s Iran deal to survive, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) continues to wrestle with whether to support the deal — a decision that has pitted him against his rabbi, riled his constituents and consumed him for much of the last month.
“When Senator Cardin goes to synagogue, he hears about this. When he goes out to dinner, he hears about it. When he sees his grandchildren, he hears about it,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “It’s not that he gets a chance to escape.”
Both supporters and opponents who have lobbied Cardin say they have no real idea where the senator stands.
“Cardin is in a tough situation,” said one Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill. “I think he sort of feels like the responsible thing to do as the ranking member on Foreign Relations and a member of the U.S. Senate is to support the deal, but as a strong supporter of Israel and a leader in a Jewish community, the right thing to do is to vote against it.”
[How the deal would work]
Both proponents and opponents sides saw Cardin as a key vote. Opponents in particular wanted Cardin to come out against the deal before the White House managed to cobble together support from 34 senators — enough to allow Obama to veto any vote against the bill, without fear of an override.
The White House is still pushing for at least seven more votes in favor of the deal, which would allow proponents to block any vote against it.
But Cardin remained undecided as of Wednesday morning, when Maryland’s senior senator, Democrat Barbara Mikulski, announced she would be the crucial 34th vote.
[Where lawmakers stand on the Iran deal]
As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Cardin’s opinion about the pact’s policy specifics holds considerable weight. As a deeply observant and prominent member of Baltimore’s Jewish community, and a staunch supporter of Israel, he is an influential voice on a deal that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vociferously opposed.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee staged a rally of more than 1,600 people …Read More