U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday he is undecided about his vote on the Iran nuclear deal, with his loyalties to the Jewish community making the vote especially difficult.
Reid, whose wife Landra is Jewish, said he is paying close attention to concerns that the deal aimed at limiting Iran’s chance to make nuclear weapons could ultimately make Israel less safe.
“I just have to work through some of my personal issues, because when it all boils down to it, it’s a question of conviction. It’s not a political calculus for me anymore,” Reid said during a meeting with reporters and editors at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Reid, who is a close ally of President Barack Obama, added: “If Israel weren’t involved, it would be much easier for me.”
The 75-year-old Reid, a Democrat who is retiring after his term ends in January 2017, seemed relaxed as he spent an hour answering questions about national and Nevada issues.
Among them were his support for creating a Gold Butte national conservation area and relaxing federal marijuana policy. Reid also discussed his legacy and said he thinks Las Vegas will get a National Hockey League team.
Conservationists have long supported protecting Gold Butte, a 350,000-acre area in northeastern Clark County about two hours east of Las Vegas. Reid and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., introduced bills to create a conservation area, but the legislation is opposed by Republicans and has gone nowhere.
Adding to the political thorniness, the conservation area would include the federal land where rancher Cliven Bundy has let his cattle roam for 20 years without paying grazing fees.
Obama could use his authority under federal law to create the conservation area, as he did recently with the Basin and Range National Monument in Nye and Lincoln counties — another controversial project pushed by Reid.
Asked whether he plans to seek executive action again, Reid said, “Well, I think I’ve asked the president for enough for a little while, so I’m just going to let that work its way through the system.”
But he left the door open to seek action from Obama, saying, “Sometime I might do it, but I’m not right now.”
When asked, Reid said he supports removing marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1” drugs that the federal government officially considers to have no medicinal use.
The conflict between federal and state laws has increased as more states legalize medical marijuana, as Nevada has done, or even recreational marijuana, as Nevada could do next year.
“We can’t have these places all over the country where they’re trying to make medicinal marijuana available and then have federal law that’s in opposition to that, so I think it should be changed,” Reid said.
During the meeting, Reid also reminisced about his childhood in Searchlight and discussed his proudest accomplishments in Congress, which include a taxpayers bill of rights and working to protect Nevada water supplies.
“I’m going to enjoy myself another 17 months or so and then figure out what I’m going to do in the world,” Reid said. “But I’m going to worry about it then, not now.”
Contact Eric Hartley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-550-9229. Find him on Twitter: @ethartley