McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization

McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he’s willing to vote on a controversial amendment that would require Congress to approve any military action against Iran, but warned colleagues it could signal disunity in Washington to a foreign adversary.

McConnell said he’s open to voting on a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallGreenpeace says many plastics are not actually recyclable Overnight Energy: Experts criticize changes to EPA lead, copper rule | House panel looks into plan to limit powers of EPA science advisers | Senate bill aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 Overnight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics MORE (D-N.M.) that would block funding for military action against Iran without prior congressional approval.

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The legislation also has support from Republican Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Pelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (Utah).

Democrats feared that McConnell would try to bypass a debate on Iran by voting as soon as Wednesday to cut off debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would be the vehicle for the Iran amendment.

But McConnell put those anxieties to rest Tuesday.

“We’re not opposed to having the vote and we’re working on having that vote, passing NDAA and doing the supplemental [border spending bill], all this week,” he said.

He urged colleagues, however, to vote against the Iran war authorization amendment.

“I don’t think it’s good for this country to see the Iranians observing us arguing over all this, either. So my hope is that it will be defeated. We’ll find out by how much of a margin but we hope to defeat it,” he said.

McConnell argued that a war authorization “is not required under this set of circumstances.”

“Nobody is advocating going to war with Iran. Not the president, not the secretary of State, none of the generals. No one," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) hailed the development as good news.

“I’m getting some heartening news here,” Schumer said shortly after reading McConnell’s comments.

“We should sit down and work out an agreement to have this amendment. It will be voted yes or no, I don’t know the answer to that. And then we pass the NDAA. That’s the way to go, that’s the way our caucus feels,” he added.

Senate Democrats debated their strategy during a closed-door lunch Tuesday.

They discussed the possibility of blocking the defense authorization bill, which has passed every year for 59 straight years, to force Republicans to allow a vote on the Udall-Kaine Iran amendment.

“People want to move forward on both. They want the authorization bill to pass and they want a vote on the amendment,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump commutes sentence of ex-Illinois Gov. Blagojevich The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders surge triggers Dem angst MORE (Ill.), who said his fellow Democrats went “back and forth” on what to do.

Durbin said he would vote against moving ahead with the defense bill if he couldn’t get a vote on the Iran amendment but didn’t know how many other Democratic senators would do the same.

Republicans were gearing up to hit Democrats for blocking the defense bill.

“There’s a chance we could not get it done. That would be the first time in 59 years that we didn’t do it,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report Democratic senators press Interior official over proposed changes to migratory bird protections MORE (R-Okla.), who noted the bill passed out of his committee overwhelmingly.