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 McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Senator asked FBI to follow up on new information about Kavanaugh last year Congress must reinstate assault weapons ban 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 KaineBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Air Force nominee: Setting up Space Force would be 'key imperative' MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Defense Department says "forever chemical" cleanup costs will dwarf earlier estimates Senators from both parties offer resolution to nix Trump emergency declaration to build wall 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 PaulRand Paul: Almost every mass shooter 'is sending off signals' Liz Cheney says world is more stable, 'safer' under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeExclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 DurbinSenators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Trump defends push to ban flavored e-cigarettes: Let's 'keep young children from Vaping!' Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine 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 InhofeIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Gun debate to shape 2020 races MORE (R-Okla.), who noted the bill passed out of his committee overwhelmingly.