Cotton, Rubio effort to strengthen Iran bill denied

Like the Iran nuclear deal itself, it appears that the Senate would rather pass a bad bill than pass no bill at all.

Efforts by Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio to add some teeth to the bill that would give Congress some say in approving the Iran nuclear deal are being blocked by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who fear an Obama veto that would scuttle the legislation entirely.


Republican leaders are preparing to clamp down on Sen. Tom Cotton’s efforts to derail a bipartisan compromise on legislation giving Congress review power over a nuclear deal with Iran, clearing the way for it to be passed this week.

The Senate is set to resume work Monday on the long-considered bill, but lawmakers in both parties agree debate on the measure has run its course, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is widely expected to wrap up consideration of the time-sensitive bill and free it from parliamentary gridlock.

“I would like to have seen more amendments. But in light of the circumstances, that route is now unfortunately over,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the bill’s author and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

In a bid to pressure President Barack Obama to take a tougher negotiating line with Tehran, Cotton (R-Ark.) made a surprise move Thursday to try and force a vote on his amendment, which would require Iran to disclose the history of its nuclear program and shutter all its nuclear facilities, and a proposal from Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio that would require Tehran to recognize Israel’s statehood.

But the provisions would disrupt the administration’s ongoing talks with Tehran and revive Obama’s veto threat against the bipartisan bill. And Cotton made his move even though Democrats were considering votes on other contentious amendments, like one from presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) requiring that a nuclear deal with Iran be approved by Congress. Lawmakers were even beginning to discuss how to accommodate Rubio’s demands for a vote on the Israel provision.

Rather than securing those votes, Cotton’s tactics drove Democrats away from negotiating over any more GOP amendments that would draw opposition from the White House. To preserve the bipartisan coalition backing the bill, GOP leaders are expected to shut off debate and the chance to amend the bill, instead of allowing a vote on proposals dubbed “poison pills” by Democrats and some Republicans.

Both Republicans and Democrats are reluctant to put any conditions on the bill where they could later be accused of blowing up the negotiations with Iran.  The world is beginning to line up behind the agreement – even the Saudis and other vulnerable Gulf states will consider supporting the the final agreement if the U.S. sells them advanced weapons.  The momentum is all on the side of the administration as the nations run toward the gasoline dump with a lit match in their hands.

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