BREAKING: Democrats block disapproval of Iran nuclear agreement

Iran-nuclear-deal-1024x576The U.S. Senate just finished voting on a cloture motion to advance debate on H.J.Res.61, the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015, the legislative vehicle for the congressional disapproval of the Iran nuclear agreement.

The final vote was 58-42, with four Democrats, Sens. Schumer (NY), Menendez (NJ), Cardin (MD), and Manchin (WV) joining all the Republicans in voting for cloture.  60 votes are needed for cloture, so the motion failed.

This is a major win for the White House and U.S. negotiation partners. Senate rejects attempt to derail Iran deal in victory for Obama:

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican effort to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal, delivering a major victory to the Obama administration.

It has become clear in recent days that the White House can prevent Congress from immediately rejecting the deal, but the successful filibuster of the resolution of disapproval ensures that President Obama won’t have to rely on his veto pen to preserve a major piece of his foreign policy agenda.

The vote on the procedural motion was 58 to 42 and 60 votes were needed to consider the resolution attacking the agreement.

The debate over the highly controversial agreement struck this summer between Tehran, the United States and other world powers is not over with House Republicans promising to continue to fight the deal in the coming weeks and months.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said House Republicans will “use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow and delay this agreement from being fully implemented,” including suing Obama to keep him from carrying out the deal.

“That is an option that is very possible,” Boehner said.

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In the Senate, leaders spent a third day arguing about whether to consider a resolution to disapprove of the deal by a simple majority, as Republicans want, or  a 60-vote majority, as Democrats want.

In the end they could not agree on a plan, meaning the Iran deal in the Senate will likely end on a procedural vote Thursday afternoon if Democrats can hold the ranks and filibuster the legislation.

“Just a few short months ago, senators of both parties came together to pass a bipartisan bill based on an important principle: that the American people, through the Congress they elect, deserve a say on one of the most important issues of our time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Thursday in advance of the vote scheduled for 3:45 p.m. “What a tragedy it would be then if, at the very last moment, some of those same senators decided to filibuster to prevent the American people from having a real say on this incredibly important issue.”

Democrats defended their strategy arguing Republicans are being uncooperative.

“Let’s be clear about who is moving to end debate: It is the Republican leader,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “If we are forced to vote on cloture, all senators should understand that the cloture vote will then become the defining vote…a vote against cloture is a vote for the Iran agreement, plain and simple.”

If the coalition of 42 Democrats supporting the deal hold together. as expected, the disapproval resolution will not pass.

And that will free up House Republicans to try a different tactic on Friday. [See previous post.]

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A group of House Republicans successfully pressed leaders to change plans after arguing that the 60-day window for Congress to consider the Iran deal never started, because Obama never gave lawmakers the text of two confidential side agreements between Iran and the the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will help enforce the agreement.

Administration officials have argued they can’t hand over those side deals, because they never had them. But House Republicans insist that stance puts the administration in breach of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act enacted earlier this year, which obligated Obama to hand over all materials pertaining to the deal with no exceptions for those the United States isn’t a party to or doesn’t have in its possession.

Republicans across Congress have taken up the complaint that without the side agreements, they can’t be expected to respect the Sept. 17 deadline for Congress to consider the deal. But in the Senate, some Republican leaders aren’t supporting the House’s new approach.

“The best way to express concerns about the documents, but also concerns about the deal itself, is to vote to disapprove the deal,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday.

Even if the side agreements were “pure as the driven snow,” he added, “I don’t think that would change our view of whether allowing Iran to industrialize their nuclear program is a bad deal.”

If Congress doesn’t deliver the administration a resolution disapproving of the Iran deal by Sept. 17, the administration is expected to consider that a go-ahead, and a victory, on the Iran deal.

But as far as the House is concerned, there is more to come. If for some reason the coalition of Senate Democrats does not hold and the deal’s opponents are able to pass the disapproval resolution out of the Senate Thursday, the House still has the option of voting on that resolution.

black knight defeatedBut if the disapproval resolution fails in the Senate as it is expected to, House Republicans figure their new tactic keeps the Iran fight alive.

“This debate is far from over,” Boehner said. “Frankly it’s just beginning.”

The Tan Man is sounding like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975):

King Arthur: [after Arthur’s cut off both of the Black Knight’s arms] Look, you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms left!
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: Look!
Black Knight: It’s just a flesh wound.

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