Democrats on Thursday blocked a last-ditch effort from Republicans to stop the Iran nuclear deal by linking the agreement to Israel and American prisoners.

Senators voted 53-45 on an amendment from Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump faces crucial decisions on economy, guns Are Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' MORE (R-Ky.) that would have prevented President Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran until the country releases American prisoners and publicly recognizes Israel's right to exist. Sixty votes were needed to move forward.


Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Thursday is the final day for Congress to approve a resolution stopping the nuclear deal, though some conservatives dispute that deadline.

With Democrats having held firm in the Senate, it appears the nuclear pact — negotiated by the United States and other world powers — will begin taking effect next month.

While the amendment vote Thursday was intended to be politically tough for Democrats, the 42 Dems who are in favor of the Iran deal voted against the Republican leader's amendment.

Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction Financial aid fraud is wrong — but overcorrection could hurt more students Democrats denounce Trump's attack on Cummings: 'These are not the words of a patriot' MORE (D-Md.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (D-N.J.) and Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (D-N.Y.), who are among a small group of Democrats who oppose the Iran deal, also joined supporters in voting "no."

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Trump vows to 'always uphold the Second Amendment' amid ongoing talks on gun laws MORE (D-W.Va.), who also opposes the Iran deal, was the only Democrat to vote for the amendment.

Cardin, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said ahead of the vote that even if Iran does recognize Israel, "I must tell you that I would have no trust in their statement, or confidence in their statement."

"This conditional approval gives up any of the disapproval resolution on the nuclear agreement," he added. "That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

Menendez agreed, saying that he voted "no" because he does not "want to give any idea that we would support this agreement ... simply because the hostages would be released and Iran would recognize Israel."

McConnell defended his amendment, suggesting that passing it was the "least" the Senate could do if lawmakers weren't willing to pass a resolution of disapproval.

“I understand that there is strong division in this Senate — a bipartisan majority opposed, a partisan minority in favor — over the broader Iran deal," he added. “But at the very least, we should be able to come together over the vote we’ll take today."

But his tactics drew pushback from his fellow Republicans. 

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeArpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument Carbon tax shows new signs of life in Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) said that while he supports releasing hostages and Iran supporting Israel, “should a whole agreement be based on those two items? No."

Flake at one time was considered the Republican most likely to support Obama’s diplomatic pact, though he ended up coming out against it. He added that while he would support McConnell’s amendment for the procedural vote, he would vote against it if it were to come up for a final vote.

It's not the first time Israel has tied up the Senate. Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (R-Fla.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonCongress must address gender gap in nominations to military service academies GOP senators press Google on reports it developed a smart speaker with Huawei Sunday shows - Mass shootings grab the spotlight MORE (R-Ark.) earlier this year tried to force a vote on an amendment linking support to Israel to the Iran review bill.

But their move effectively shut down debate, with Democrats, and some Republicans, arguing that their amendment was a poison pill for the legislation.

The Obama administration, and Democrats who support the deal, have long argued that the pact is focused solely on Iran’s nuclear program and does not address other areas of concern, including the country’s support for terrorist groups.

Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason Reid2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Panel: How Biden's gaffes could cost him against Trump MORE (D-Nev.) doubled down on that position Thursday, saying that when it comes to the agreement, the issue has already been “decided” in the Senate.

“What the Republican colleagues are doing right now is very, very cynical,” he added. “They’re taking serious issues and turning them into pawns in a political issue.”  

Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who participated in last night’s presidential debate in California, missed the amendment vote.