Man About Town

Schumer calls on Biden to address broader range of issues in Iran talks

The Senate majority leader said ‘when we do sit down we have to make sure there are a lot of issues on the table'

Lev Radin/Sipa via AP

U. S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer marks re-opening of Junior's Cheesecake restaurant on Times Square in New York on May 6, 2021.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on the Biden administration on Thursday to address a range of issues in addition to Iran’s nuclear program in its negotiations with Tehran during a virtual event with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Schumer emphasized that he opposed both the 2015 nuclear deal when it was signed as well as the Trump administration’s withdrawal from it three years later, which he said “isolated the U.S., instead of Iran.” 

“Today Iran has a greater ability — they’re closer to producing a nuclear weapon — than they were the day Trump pulled out of the agreement or the day Obama signed the agreement,” Schumer said.

The longtime New York senator indicated that he would like to see a broader deal with Iran addressing a range of issues including terrorism, ballistic missiles, human rights and hostage-taking, rather than focusing on the nuclear issue alone.

“I understand why the current administration is in negotiations and I don’t have any problem with them sitting down and talking, but I also believe… we have to follow through on all of these issues,” Schumer said. “It’s not that we shouldn’t sit down, because if we don’t sit down, Iran could just go forward and produce a nuclear weapon… but when we do sit down we have to make sure there are a lot of issues on the table.”

The Senate majority leader also said he plans to push for $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) for fiscal year 2022. In 2020, the House approved $360 million in funding, while the Senate only approved $90 million; the chambers compromised at $180 million.

“I wanted $360 [million]. I was only minority leader in December. I got it doubled to $180 [million], now we’re going to try to get the full $360 [million] a year, which is very much needed and has broad support, so I’m very optimistic,” Schumer said.

Last week, a group of House members — roughly one-third of the legislative body — expressed support for $360 million in NSGP funding for 2022, which is also the target amount for a number of Jewish community organizations lobbying on the issue.

In recent weeks, however, several senators who had been vocal supporters of the NSGP program declined to provide to JI a specific target level for 2022 NSGP funding.

Earlier on Thursday, Schumer paid a shiva call to the family of Pinchas Menachem Knoblowitz, who died in the stampede at a Lag B’Omer gathering at Israel’s Mount Meron last weekend that killed 45 people. Schumer told the family he has “a deep faith in Hashem. 

“I have a Jewish heart — a neshamah,” Schumer said. “I have a deep faith in God. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be in this job.”

Also Thursday, the New York senator stopped by Junior’s in Times Square, digging into a slice of the restaurant’s famous cheesecake, to celebrate the location’s reopening.

“If there’s an iconic place on the planet that tells the toil of COVID, it’s Times Square,” Schumer said. “All of Times Square is coming back. And we’re here to say now that in Times Square there is light, there is liveliness, and there is cheesecake.”

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