US Senators Face Defeat on Iran

US Senators Face  Defeat on IranUS Senators Face  Defeat on Iran

Republican leaders are preparing to clamp down on Senator Tom Cotton’s efforts to derail a bipartisan compromise on a bill giving Congress review power over a nuclear deal with Iran, clearing the way for it to be passed this week, Politico reported on Monday.

The Senate is set to resume work Monday on the long-considered bill, but lawmakers in both parties agree debate on the measure has run its course, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is widely expected to wrap up consideration of the time-sensitive bill and free it from parliamentary gridlock.

In a bid to pressure President Barack Obama to take a tougher negotiating line with Tehran, Cotton made a surprise move Thursday to try and force a vote on his amendment, which would require Iran to disclose the history of its nuclear program and shutter all its nuclear facilities, and a proposal from Senator Marco Rubio that would require Tehran to recognize Israel’s statehood.

But the provisions would disrupt the administration’s ongoing talks with Tehran and revive Obama’s veto threat against the bipartisan bill.

 Cotton made his move even though Democrats were considering votes on other contentious amendments.

Rather than securing those votes, Cotton’s tactics drove Democrats away from negotiating over any more GOP amendments that would draw opposition from the White House. To preserve the bipartisan coalition backing the bill, GOP leaders are expected to shut off debate and the chance to amend the bill, instead of allowing a vote on proposals dubbed “poison pills” by Democrats and some Republicans.

“You’re running into a scheduling problem,” said Foreign Relations ranking member Ben Cardin, who supports the underlying bill. “Most likely option right now is to move to” cut off debate, he added.

Asked, in an interview after the Cotton-sparked row, whether he will move to shut down debate on the bill Monday, McConnell leader suggested he might: “I’ll let you know Monday.”

The so-called Iran Nuclear Review Act bill still enjoys broad bipartisan support and is expected to pass the chamber, however, Cotton's move largely dashed Republican hopes of forcing Obama’s negotiating hand with more stern instructions or making Democrats take politically difficult votes.

Obama had been opposed to the legislation but later said he would sign it after tweaks were made and it became clear it had a veto-proof majority.

“There are between 70 and 80 members who are very pleased for this process to be over, and they want to pass this bill,” Cardin said, adding, “It’s not just Democrats.”

*** Toothless Votes

Senator Robert Menendez said “it’s pretty ironic” that because of the way the debate has played out over the Cotton and Rubio proposals, it will be the senators’ fellow Republicans who will be blocked from making further revisions.

McConnell told his colleagues at a private lunch shortly after the breakdown on the Senate floor that no decision has been made to cut off debate on the measure and, indeed, there are several scenarios in which McConnell could allow toothless votes on Cotton and Rubio’s proposals or perhaps attempt to lure Democrats back to the bargaining table.

But senators in both parties say the moment has passed and McConnell is eager to move on to other matters.

“It was a classic case where the members should be heard,” one Republican senator said of the Iran bill. But now, “there may be a point where you have to figure out how to end that opportunity.”

Cruz, Rubio and Cotton huddled in McConnell’s office for a lengthy meeting on Thursday after the floor scuffle. As he left the meeting, Cruz declined to say whether he would vote against ending debate on the legislation. It’s a roll call vote that would test Republicans’ appetite for limiting debate on the floor after complaining bitterly about Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s strict tactics as majority leader in years past.