Senate Democrats co-sponsoring a critical Iran bill say they will vote against their own legislation when Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer requests Senate briefing on Ukraine amid Russia tensions Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections MORE (R-Ky.) brings it up for a vote next week.
Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Angus KingAngus KingBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (I-Maine) — all co-sponsors of legislation that would prevent President Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran until Congress reviews a deal — said explicitly that they would vote no next week on the legislation if a vote is scheduled.
Menendez is circulating a letter to McConnell signed by King and the other Democratic co-sponsors in which they pledge to oppose the bill if it is brought to the floor next week. The other three Democratic co-sponsors are Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.).
Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) also signed the letter.
McConnell announced late Wednesday that the Senate will hold a procedural vote Tuesday on the legislation. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Menendez introduced the bill Friday; it would give Congress 60 days to review a deal. McConnell said he would fast-track the bill, which has not yet been approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, to the Senate floor.
The Democrats say McConnell should wait until at least March 24, the deadline for international negotiators to reach a framework agreement on a deal to roll back Iran’s nuclear program, before bringing the bill to the floor. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, and at least 13 Democrats or Independents would be needed to reach a veto-proof majority.
“I don’t understand why this rush to the floor, violating regular order, which the majority leader has called for, and bypassing the committee,” said Menendez, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He said he would not agree to consider it in the committee before March 24 either.
Democrats said Wednesday that McConnell’s move to fast-track consideration of the bill to next week, after a joint congressional address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, blew up bipartisan support for the bill.
“I think the bill — barring what happened yesterday — was headed for a veto-proof majority,” said King. “I think yesterday derailed that to some extent.
“This is just too important for politics. This is one of the most important decision this country will be making in years, and I just at least hope, perhaps for once, we can make the decision on the merits and not on the basis of who’s up and who’s down just to gain political advantage and whether to help the president or hurt the president,” King said.
“Let’s decide this very grave decision on the basis of what it actually does to Iran’s nuclear prospects and the prospects of limiting nuclear proliferation in the Middle East,” he added.
A spokeswoman for McConnell addressed the vote for the bill, saying, “We will have more scheduling announcements soon.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and several other Senate Democrats introduced their own bill on Wednesday to require the White House to report on Iranian compliance with any deal. Boxer’s bill could provide cover for Democrats who oppose other legislation introduced on Iran so far.
-- Updated at 8:32 p.m.