Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: House loosens pesticide rules to fight Zika | A GOP bill that keeps some of ObamaCare | More proof of pending premium hikes Senate votes to block financial adviser rule Reid defends embattled VA secretary MORE (R-Ky.) plans to force Democrats to walk the line on the Iran nuclear agreement, teeing up a vote on a contentious amendment on the deal.
McConnell sets up tough vote for Dems on Iran
The Republican leader scheduled a procedural vote on an amendment that would block President Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran under the nuclear deal until Iran publicly supports Israel and releases Americans currently held in Iranian prisons.
Under Senate rules, the vote would occur Thursday, which is also the deadline for Congress to pass legislation on the Iran nuclear agreement.
The procedural hardball comes after Democrats blocked a resolution of disapproval on the deal from overcoming a procedural hurdle for a second time. Opponents of the agreement were largely expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.
The Kentucky Republican warned Democrats ahead of Tuesday's vote that if they blocked the resolution that he would file his amendment, saying that "my strong preference is for Democrats to simply allow an up-or-down vote on the president’s Iran deal."
"But if they’re determined to make that impossible, then at the very least we should be able to provide some protection to Israel and long-overdue relief to Americans who’ve languished in Iranian custody for years," he added.
The procedural vote — where McConnell will also need 60 votes to move forward with his amendment — could put Democrats in a tough spot.
An amendment from Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioNew Mexico GOP gov. won’t attend home-state Trump rally Rubio: 'It’s not that we lost, it’s that Donald Trump won’ Santorum endorses Trump after 'long heart-to-heart' MORE (R-Fla.), who is running for president, and Tom CottonTom CottonThe Hill's 12:30 Report GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Cotton: We have an 'under-incarceration problem' MORE (R-Ark.) earlier this year on linking Iran's support of Israel to the nuclear deal effectively shut down debate on the review legislation passed in May.
Republicans and Democrats, at the time, acknowledged that if successful the amendment would have either derailed the review legislation or killed the nuclear agreement because Iran likely wouldn't agree to it.
Amendments on American hostages also weren't allowed to be brought up for a vote on the review bill earlier this year.
Democrats ripped McConnell's tactics on Tuesday, suggesting that the Senate needs to move on to other issues including how to fund the government.
"The Republican leader has threatened to us, 'we lost and we're going to make you suffer,'" Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Overnight Healthcare: House loosens pesticide rules to fight Zika | A GOP bill that keeps some of ObamaCare | More proof of pending premium hikes The Trail 2016: Digging up dirt MORE (D-Nev.) said. "The Republicans have lost. They lost this measure, and we should move on to something else."
It's unclear what impact McConnell's amendment will have, even if gets the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle. Senators would need to get unanimous consent to speed up votes to meet the deadline to pass legislation on the Iran deal, and the amendment is being offered to the resolution of disapproval that Senate Democrats have twice blocked.
The Kentucky Republican also filed cloture, for a third time, on the resolution of disapproval.