SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Sen. Bob Menendez, a one-time party loyalist, is proving he’s no longer a foot soldier for the Democratic Party.
The New Jersey senator, who faces corruption allegations, has broken ranks with the Democrats once again. The Cuban-American lawmaker on Tuesday became the second Democrat to oppose President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.
During a press conference on Tuesday at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in rejecting the deal negotiated with Tehran in which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions.
"If Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it," Menendez said.
Menendez said he is opposed to the measure because Iran has violated various U.N. Security Council resolutions while advancing its nuclear program. He said he is concerned the agreement doesn’t require Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.
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"Let's remind ourselves of the stated purpose of our negotiations with Iran: Simply put, it was to dismantle all — or significant parts — of Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure to ensure that it would not have nuclear weapons capability at any time. Not shrink its infrastructure," Menendez said.
Menendez said his opposition is not an issue of whether he supports or opposes Obama, who has pledged to veto a congressional resolution of disapproval.
"This issue is much greater and graver than that," he said.
Menendez has long criticized the deal, so it was no surprise he will oppose. He has some part of the deal “worrisome.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed doubts that Congress could override Obama's expected veto. Twenty-one Senate Democrats and Independents of the 34 needed to sustain a veto are backing the deal. Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and the party leader-in-waiting, is the only other notable Democratic defection.
In the House, at least 50 Democrats have expressed support. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California has spoken confidently about rounding up the votes to save the deal. Ten House Democrats have announced their opposition.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.