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 McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 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 CardinIt's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos MORE (D-Md.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Spending bill faces Senate scramble Republicans raise concerns over Biden's nominee for ambassador to Germany MORE (D-N.J.) and Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports 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 ManchinJoe ManchinBiden faces new pressure from climate groups after Powell pick Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan With extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one 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 FlakeRubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay 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 RubioRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Rubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (R-Fla.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai Biden says he's 'considering' a diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics 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 ReidVoters need to feel the benefit, not just hear the message Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama Mellman: Are independents really so independent? 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 PaulFauci overwhelmed by calls after journal published mistake over beagle experiments McConnell looks for way out of debt ceiling box Senators make bipartisan push to block 0M weapons sale to Saudis MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who participated in last night’s presidential debate in California, missed the amendment vote.