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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 CottonTom Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union 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 McConnellBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Washington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality 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.