Frustrated by his inability to get an up-or-down vote on the Iran nuclear deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has decided to take the gloves off and force Democrats to go on record for a controversial amendment to the agreement that the GOP will not doubt cite in the 2016 election.
The Republican lawmaker has slated a vote for Thursday on a measure that would prohibit President Obama from lifting economic sanctions on Iran until Tehran recognizes the country of Israel and releases a handful of American hostages held in the country.
The amendment actually combines two so-called “poison pill” proposals GOP senators sought to attach to the bill that allowed lawmakers to weigh in on the nuclear deal in the first place. It took a careful bipartisan effort to stave off the measures but now, after two failed attempts to end debate and get a vote on the substance of the agreement, McConnell has run out of patience.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he chided Democratic leaders who seek to “trivialize the process” and bottle up the resolution.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN), who kept his fellow Republicans at bay when the law creating the resolution was on the chamber floor, said there is now a “pent up demand” among members to have their amendments considered.
He said Obama should “be proud” to veto the legislation if it came across his desk.
“To me it’s taken on a little Tammy Wynnette flavor to me, ‘Stand by Your Man,’” Corker joked.
One can just imagine how votes against Israel or the release of American hostages would play out in 2016 television ads and elsewhere, especially since the GOP has historically maintained an edge on national security matters.
It’s possible that the Republican maneuver could peel off enough Democrats to get the amendment attached to the resolution but the move also has the potential to backfire, as some lawmakers who opposed the Iran deal, like Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), have expressed displeasure over what they consider partisan strong-arming by McConnell.
For now, Democratic leaders argue the majority party should move on and help hammer out a short-term budget agreement that funds the federal government past September 30.
McConnell “wants to drag this out as long as possible,” according to Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). “It’s time to move on.”
The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat took particular umbrage with the GOP leader placing the fate of the American hostages into the midst of a “political fight.”
“This is not the right thing to do,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the GOP had “better get their act together” quickly and pivot to budget talks.