All eyes on Booker
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All eyes on Booker

Calls, emails, and a Chris Christie press conference on Tuesday haven’t yet swayed senator

Senator Cory Booker
Senator Cory Booker

Governor Chris Christie made a rare appearance in New Jersey on Tuesday, speaking out against the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

He spoke at the Rutgers Chabad, at a press conference that also featured Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood and Rabbi Shalom Baum, the president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and leader of Teaneck’s Congregation Keter Torah.

The RCA was one of the first Jewish groups to come out against the deal, condemning it in a joint statement with the Orthodox Union a day after the 159-page deal was released in June.

While Christie repeated his earlier attacks on President Barack Obama for negotiating a poor deal, the specific targets of Tuesday’s event were the members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation who had not yet come out against it. Foremost among the group is Senator Cory Booker, who was urged to follow the lead of the state’s senior senator, Robert Menendez, also a Democrat, and oppose it. In the House, the undecideds include Bill Pascrell Jr. of the 9th District and Frank Pallone Jr. of the 6th. The Republicans all have come out against the deal.

Norpac, the Englewood-based pro-Israel political action committee, whose donors gave Mr. Booker $364,876 in 2014, also was a sponsor of the press conference. Norpac was the senator’s seventh-largest source of campaign funds. Norpac gave more to Mr. Booker than to any other congressional candidate that year.

Rabbi Boteach called on Senator Booker to hold true to his values.

“A senator at the forefront of prison reform in the United States could not legitimize a government that locks up thousands of people just because they are political opponents of the regime,” Rabbi Boteach said of Mr. Booker.

But as of press time Wednesday, Senator Cory Booker remained apparently unconvinced and undecided.

Last Thursday, New Jersey’s junior senator, a Democrat, said that he planned to devote the day to “meeting with some of the brightest minds my staff can pull together” for seven hours of briefings on the ramifications of approving or disapproving the nuclear deal with Iran.

He added that he planned to cap the day by “praying that the Lord grant me some of the wisdom of Solomon to make the right choice.”

Mr. Booker spoke last week on a teleconference arranged by the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel, AIPAC, and the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.

“I have never had my cell phone and email account blow up as much as it is now,” he said. “I’ve gotten calls from leaders of the Jewish community from across the nation on this issue. People from both sides of this issue.”

The senator said there is no question that “this deal is flawed and presents serious risks and threats.”

The question he is looking at, he said, is “what are the alternatives if Congress is to reject the deal?

“Anyone who thinks this is simple misses the point that rejecting the deal has consequences as well,” he said. “I want to make sure rejecting a deal that has many bad elements would allow us to achieve our goals” of ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions and terrorist activities.

Mr. Booker said that if the deal does go forward — as it will unless both the House and Senate can muster the two-thirds super majority needed to override President Obama’s promised veto of a disapproval resolution — America will have to do more to stop Iran’s support for terrorism, which he said is a real concern, and a greater one if sanctions are lifted and money flows to the Iranian regime.

No matter whether the deal is approved or rejected, “After this consequential vote in September, you will hear my voice as one of the loudest voices in the Senate in the effort to stop that evil,” he said.

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