During a tense phone call with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough in early March, Sen. Chuck Schumer delivered a blunt message: He would join a growing chorus of senators defying the wishes of President Barack Obama by demanding that Congress have an official say over any nuclear deal with Iran.
But in a nod to the president, Schumer later made clear that he would give administration officials more time to negotiate a nuclear pact before pushing forward with a congressional review bill.
The conversations underscored the unusually conflicted — yet increasingly influential — role Schumer is playing as the Iran talks approach a critical juncture. The New York Democrat was already among a handful of senators with the power to undermine or even scuttle a nuclear agreement. Then on Friday, he became the Democratic leader-in-waiting following Sen. Harry Reid’s retirement announcement.
Now senators on both sides of the aisle will be watching Schumer — closely — to see how he responds to any deal.