Dems block spending bill over Iran amendment for third time

Dems block spending bill over Iran amendment for third time
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Senate Democrats again blocked consideration of an energy and water spending bill on Monday because of a proposed Republican amendment to the bill dealing with Iran. 

On a 50-42 vote, Democrats blocked cloture for the $37.5 billion bill, which increases funding for Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers programs. 

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It was the third time they have refused to end debate on the measure, due to an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonLawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Five things to know about Iran's breaches of the nuclear deal Hillicon Valley: Trump gets pushback after reversing course on Huawei | China installing surveillance apps on visitors' phones | Internet provider Cloudflare suffers outage | Consumer groups look to stop Facebook cryptocurrency MORE (R-Ark.) that would use the bill to prohibit the White House from purchasing heavy water from Iran. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) has now called for a straight vote on the amendment, and another vote on the spending bill this week.

Under the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement, the country is required to sell down its stock of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors. The U.S. announced it would purchase some of Iran’s heavy water last month, and Cotton and other Republicans hope to prevent that from happening in the future.

McConnell encouraged Democrats on Monday to vote for the underlying spending bill and allow the appropriations process to move forward. But after their third filibuster on the bill, McConnell set up a Wednesday vote on both the Iran measure and the energy and water spending bill.

“The bill before us will support energy innovation and waterways infrastructure,” he said. “It will promote commerce and public safety. It will help maintain our nuclear deterrence posture. These are priorities that would be important to all of us, so let's continue to work today and move this bill forward.”

Democrats, though, have objected, saying the measure would earn a veto from the Obama administration. The amendment had not been scheduled for a vote, but Republicans said Monday there is no use trying to prevent it now, with a vote on the Iran amendment now coming this week.  

"It will have a vote, make no mistake about it," Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.) said in a floor speech. "The majority leader, any majority leader, has the right to file cloture on an amendment like the Cotton amendment." 

The measure seems unlikely to pass, given opposition from Democrats and even from Alexander, who said the amendment could mean Iran selling heavy water to other countries who shouldn’t have it, like North Korea.