McConnell rejects Iran delay

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCures bill in jeopardy amid drug pricing push Senate Democratic super PAC sets fundraising record Five takeaways from Florida Senate debate MORE (R-Ky.) is dismissing a House Republican Hail-Mary attempt to kill the Iran nuclear deal by postponing a vote on a disapproval resolution.

House conservatives want to delay the vote and argue that the 60-day congressional review period has not yet elapsed because the administration has yet to submit paperwork detailing “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Tea-Party firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined the House GOP effort Wednesday by panning an upcoming Senate vote on the disapproval resolution as a “show vote” and putting pressure on McConnell to delay it.

But McConnell rejected the gambit in a press conference with reporters.

“As I understand law, once Sept. 17 passes is it not the case that the president will take the view that he is free to go forward,” to lift sanctions, he said.

Still, McConnell indicated Wednesday that a vote may not happen until next week as he and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) continue to wrangle over a time agreement.

The conflicting strategies undermine McConnell’s messaging on the issue, which is focused on pressing Democrats to agree to an up-or-down vote on the Iran deal.

He has argued that it would be hypocritical for Democrats to block a final vote on the disapproval measure after voting overwhelmingly in May to pass legislation giving Congress review authority over the agreement.

“I expect that every senator who voted for that measure is now entitled to an up or down vote — not a filibuster or artificial limits on passage, but an important vote — on this resolution,” he said Tuesday.

A senior Senate GOP aide said Cruz is on his own. 

“He seems to be the only member advocating a totally different strategy from what everyone agreed to before,” said the aide.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that senators agreed by unanimous consent to debate and vote on the disapproval resolution as soon as they returned from the August recess. 

He said his colleagues had “a clear understanding that the vote would take place on a certain day.”

McConnell called on Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerBob CorkerPublic lands aren't just majestic; they add billions to the economy Global climate pact may bump into Senate roadblock GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R-Tenn.) Wednesday to offer a more detailed rebuttal to the House plan

“What is difficult to understand is what the next course of action is if you take that position and don’t register bipartisan opposition today,” Corker said.

The Senate disapproval resolution is expected to fail because 42 Democratic senators have already announced their support for the nuclear deal, giving them enough votes to sustain a filibuster.

Even if McConnell were able to push the disapproval measure through the Senate, Obama will veto it and Republicans are far short of the two-thirds majority they need to override that action.

Corker said holding a bipartisan vote this month in favor of a disapproval measure would be productive even if it fails to reach the 60-vote threshold.

“That opens the door for the next president to look at this in a very different way. Bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate will have disapproved of what was negotiated,” he said.

“We’re much better off at this juncture having the opportunity within the window — when there’s no debate about whether the clock has started or not — expressing that disapproval,” he added. 

Cruz introduced a resolution on July 30 stating the 60-day review period did not begin that month — as most lawmakers thought — because the administration did not transfer to Congress all the materials required by law.

He pressed McConnell Wednesday to delay the Senate vote, which is expected by the end of next week.

“The review period has not started and does not start until the entire deal is submitted to Congress and the president cannot lift these sanctions until the review period expires,” Cruz said. “Therefore I call upon leadership of my party—Leader McConnnell, Speaker Boehner—simply enforce the terms of Corker-Cardin [review bill].”

Conservatives now believe the best way to kill the deal is to argue that President Obama has not followed the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a dispute that could take months, if not years, of litigation to resolve.

Even Democrats who oppose the Iran deal, such as Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, say they are under no obligation to advance the disapproval measure to a final vote.

“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Act does not require action by Congress at all,” he said.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who played a key role in negotiating the review act earlier this year, said a vote on ending a filibuster of the disapproval resolution is just as substantive as voting on the measure itself.

“Everyone has declared their position on the bill. There’s complete accountability and transparency now on where people are on the bill,” he said.  

Jordain Carney contributed.

This story was updated at 4:54 p.m.