The White House lit into Sen. Chuck Schumer on Friday for his decision to vote no on the Iran deal and suggested that he’s put his clear path to be the next Democratic leader in doubt.
And a person familiar with Schumer’s decision said the senator’s allies blame the White House for leaking news from a private call Schumer made to President Barack Obama on Thursday afternoon and breaking a direct request the senator made to the president to give him until Friday to put word out about his decision.
The person also noted, with more than a little acidity, that Obama was the only person Schumer told of his decision before the news started to leak out.
“I wouldn’t be surprised” if Senate Democrats consider Schumer’s decision in picking their next leader, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday, eagerly lumping in the New York Democrat in with the Republicans that Obama has said are against the Iran deal for the same reason they were for the Iraq War.
“There’s no denying that this difference of opinion that emerged overnight is one that has existed between Senator Schumer and President Obama for over a decade,” Earnest said.
Asked if Schumer’s leadership of the Democratic conference is now in doubt, Earnest made a very noticeable duck: “This is a question for Democratic senators,” he said.
Obama and aides had never much expected Schumer to be a yes. But the way Schumer said no is what’s enraged them: not the timing of a statement put out at 10 p.m. on the night of the first GOP debate, but the timing of such a high-profile rejection with four weeks and lots of undecided members to go.
Schumer’s allies suggest that Obama’s side violated a private agreement and put the news out amid the Republican debate to quash as much attention as possible to an embarrassment that Obama and his team were expecting, just not quite yet.
The explosion follows years of pent up frustration in the White House toward Schumer — “Chuck Schumer, who said it was a mistake to pass Obamacare, now comes out against the Iran Deal. This is our next Senate leader?” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau tweeted Thursday night.
Around the White House, Schumer’s decision is being portrayed as evidence of an under-pressure Schumer trying to satisfy the constituencies that were demanding his opposition, while underplaying the announcement enough to avoid some of the heat from the party’s liberal base.
Schumer’s as opposed as he can be, his office says: both a “no” vote on the deal, and a pledge to vote to override a veto by Obama that’s now all but assured.
Schumer’s office declined comment on Earnest’s brush-off. But a source close to the senator said his Senate colleagues weren’t surprised by his decision to oppose the Iran deal.
Schumer made a more extensive case against the deal than any of the Republicans on stage in Cleveland did. And not without notice: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office almost immediately copy-and-pasted Schumer’s 1,500 word Medium essay into an email to reporters late Thursday night.
The liberal base — important to Schumer as a senator from New York, but arguably much more important to a Democratic conference that’s tilted noticeably left — did not take the news well. MoveOn.org, for example, almost immediately dubbed it a “Schumer effort to put nation on war path.”
Nor did those in the Obama orbit: “Senator Schumer siding with the GOP against Obama, Clinton, and most Democrats will make it hard for him to lead the Dems in ‘16,” former senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted. Read more at POLITICO.