Muzzling Republicans, McConnell Moves to End Debate on Iran Nuke Bill

By Patrick Goodenough | May 5, 2015 | 8:56 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday evening moved to end debate on bipartisan legislation that will allow Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal, after amendments proposed by some Republicans threatened to cost it Democratic support.

McConnell’s action sets up a vote on Thursday to end debate. That would clear the way for a vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a bill crafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in such a way as to ensure maximum bipartisan support and fend off an earlier White House veto threat.

Corker earlier Tuesday predicted an “overwhelming vote” in favor of the bill.

Scores of Republican amendments aimed – their proposers say – at strengthening the bill will now not be considered.

McConnell acted after Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) used a floor tactic in a bid to force a quick vote on two amendments – one requiring Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and the other requiring Iran to take specified steps, including giving inspectors full access to suspicious sites, before getting any sanctions relief.

Critics accused them of trying to ruin the bipartisan initiative, and McConnell faced pressure to end debate.

Shortly after the Republican leader filed the cloture motion, Cotton tweeted: “Congress must stand up & protect U.S. from a nuclear Iran. It’s regrettable that Dem intransigence blocked efforts to strengthen this bill.”

The legislation, which is expected to pass easily, gives Congress 30 days to review the final deal on Iran’s nuclear program, which is due to be concluded by June 30. It must be submitted to Congress within five days after an agreement is finalized.

During that 30-day period President Obama would not be able to waive or suspend statutory sanctions against Tehran.

Congress would also be able to vote on “a joint resolution stating in substance that the Congress does favor the agreement,” or alternatively vote on “a joint resolution stating in substance that the Congress does not favor the agreement.” It could also choose to take no action.

Should Congress pass a resolution of disapproval, the prohibition on sanctions relief would be extended by 12 more days. And if Obama vetoed the resolution, the period would extended by a further 10 days. Overriding a veto would require the support of 67 of the 100 senators.

The bill also requires the administration to certify every 90 days that Iran is complying with all of the terms of the agreement. Any violation would have to be reported to Congress within 10 days, giving it the ability quickly to reinstate sanctions that have been eased as a result of the deal.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow