Senate Republicans’ last gasp on Iran nuclear deal fails
WASHINGTON — In a final effort to derail the Iran nuclear deal, Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to get enough votes on an amendment that would have required Iran to recognize Israel and release Americans held in Iran before getting sanctions relief from the United States.
The amendment, which was considered on the last day Congress by law can act to scuttlethe deal, needed 60 votes to pass but failed 53-45.
The toughly worded and politically sensitive amendment was designed to pressure Democrats — most of whom support the Iran deal — to choose between the implementation of the agreement and their commitment to Israel and Americans held in Iran.
“The administration attempted to negotiate this deal with the singular focus of ending Iran’s nuclear program,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before the vote, complaining that “myopia” led the White House to ignore the needs of Israel and the prisoners. “We can say it has to be corrected before sanctions are lifted and billions more flow into Iranian coffers to use for terrorism.”
But Democrats said the effort was a “cynical show vote,” in the words of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
“The issue has been decided,” Reid said. “But instead of focusing on the critical issue of funding our government, Sen. McConnell has decided to spend the entire week on something that’s already been decided, twice.”
Three of the four Democratic senators who came out against the Iran deal itself voted against this amendment. Only Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted with the Republicans.
Two Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen Rand Paul of Kentucky, missed the vote. But Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas returned from Wednesday night’s debate in California to make the 11 a.m. roll call.
Before the vote, McConnell drew complaints from Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, an opponent of the deal who nevertheless said the leader’s tactic of repeated failed procedural votes was “misguided.”
“There is not value to our allies to see there is a split here in Congress or between Congress and the executive on this issue,” he said.