Republicans Push Senate Dems on Iran Bill

Republicans Push Senate Dems on Iran Bill Republicans Push Senate Dems on Iran Bill

US Republicans are looking for ways to force Democrats to walk the plank in a series of tough votes over Iran.  

Republican senators want to attach amendments to the recent deal struck between Sens. Bob Corker and Ben Cardin that would allow the US Congress to weigh in on any agreement reached between the Obama administration and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, The Hill reported on Sunday.

The White House and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid are warning against changes that could erode support from Democrats and President Barack Obama.

But Republicans are looking for options that would place Democrats between the proverbial rock and a hard place, forcing them to choose between opening themselves up to attack by voting against the amendments, or angering Obama and Reid by backing them.

The White House has spent significant political capital on gathering support for the Iran nuclear talks, repeatedly dispatching high-ranking officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, to meet publicly and privately with lawmakers.

***Wrench in the Works

But proposals from presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio, among others, could throw a wrench in the works.

The Florida Republican, together with Sen. Mark Kirk, wants to include in the Corker-Cardin agreement a requirement that Obama must certify that Iran publicly accept Israel's right to exist. It is impossible that Iran would make such a declaration.

Another amendment from Rubio and Kirk, as well a separate amendment from Sen. James Risch, ties the agreement to the release of Americans currently being held in Iran.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Barrasso wants to reinsert a requirement that Obama be able to certify that Iran has not carried out or directly supported terrorism against the United States or a US citizen.

The terrorism certification was removed as part of the agreement reached by Cardin and Corker, and Democratic support would be in serious doubt if it returned.

Rubio has introduced another amendment to ensure that any sanctions relief under a nuclear deal does not affect congressional and executive sanctions placed on Iran for different reasons: its alleged support of terrorism, its alleged human rights violations or its ballistic missile program.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson has introduced two amendments that would allow Congress to approve a final deal, and also requires a higher threshold of support than under Corker-Cardin.

Under a joint resolution of disapproval, Obama would currently only need to convince 34 senators to back the Iran agreement, meaning he could lose roughly a dozen Democrats and still be successful.

Under one other amendment, the final deal would have to be submitted to the Senate as a treaty — something the administration had adamantly said the agreement is not.

Under yet another amendment, the agreement would have to get support from half of the members in both the House and Senate.

Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2016 hopeful, also wants to weigh in on the Iran legislation. He has filed an amendment with Sen. Pat Toomey to bolster congressional review of any Iran deal.

The Texas Republican said that it "imperative that, at the very least, the president obtain majority support for his deal from both houses of Congress before moving forward."

***Robust Amendment Process

There is no guarantee that the series of potentially tricky amendments will get a vote, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged a "robust amendment process."

"This bill will be open for amendment, and those who seek to improve it will have an opportunity to do so," the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor. "We look forward to a vigorous debate on it."

Democrats are already pledging to try to block significant changes to the bill. They are also asking their Republican colleagues to maintain the spirit of "bipartisan cooperation" that allowed the legislation to pass unanimously out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Let's see the amendments and try to work with you on the amendments," Cardin said. "Let's maintain the bipartisan cooperation we have here."

Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Menendez said he would vote against "poisonous" amendments, and urged senators to "suppress any intentions that would drive this to a point that we can't have that strong vote."