The Slatest

Senate Democrats Block Final Vote on Resolution Disapproving of Iran Deal

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to members of the media as (L-R) Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), and Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) listen after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon Sept. 9, 2015.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate failed to move a measure disapproving of the Iran nuclear agreement to a final vote on Thursday, falling two votes short of the 60 required and handing a major victory to the Obama administration, but opponents of the deal in both chambers have not given up. CNN reports that “Senate Republicans are considering a revote on the measure next week to put additional pressure on Democrats” and the House of Representatives is just getting started on a series of votes objecting to the deal:

After the Senate vote Thursday, the House passed a resolution on a straight party vote stating that the President failed to comply with the law on the Iran nuclear deal because he didn’t provide Congress with details on so-called “side deals” governing inspections of possible nuclear sites.

The non-binding measure was approved 246-186 and could lay the groundwork for a future legal challenge against the Obama Administration.

Following the 58-42 vote, President Obama released a statement describing the deal with Iran as part of “a foreign policy that leaves our country—and the world—a safer place” and praising the Senate for “taking an historic step forward.”

For nearly two years, we negotiated from a position of strength to reach an agreement that meets our core objectives. Since we concluded these negotiations, we have had the most consequential national security debate since the decision to invade Iraq more than a decade ago. Over the last several weeks, the more members studied the details of this deal, the more they came out in support. Today, I am heartened that so many Senators judged this deal on the merits, and am gratified by the strong support of lawmakers and citizens alike.

The agreement, opposition to which attracted a long list of conservative luminaries to D.C. on Wednesday for a rally, was an early source of political notoriety for freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who authored the infamous letter decrying the negotiations that was signed by 47 Senate Republicans and sent to the leaders of Iran last spring. Cotton delivered a lengthy speech on the Senate floor ahead of Thursday’s vote, full of dark warnings for colleagues planning to shut down the disapproval measure:

If Iran goes nuclear, history will not remember kindly the senators who supported this nuclear deal.  It won’t remember your hand-wringing, your anguished speeches, or your grave brow-furrowing.  It won’t remember your gullible beliefs about the flawed inspections system or unworkable enforcement mechanisms.  It won’t remember your soft rationalizations that this deal is “better than nothing” or “the only alternative to war.”

History will remember your vote and only your vote.  It will remember that you opened the gate to Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.  It will remember you as the ones who flipped the strategic balance of the Middle East and the world toward the favor of our enemies. 

And it will remember you, this Senate, and this president as the ones who — when given the chance to stop the world’s worst sponsor of terrorism from obtaining the world’s worst weapons—blinked when confronted with that evil.

The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration could begin easing sanctions on Iran under the terms of the agreement as early as next week, though taking any action on that front is sure to bring a firestorm of criticism and demands that any changes wait until all possible legislative and legal challenges have been exhausted.

There will no doubt be more strongly-worded resolutions to vote on and maybe some lawsuits assembled in the coming weeks, but the first major congressional battle over the Iran nuclear agreement was settled in President Obama’s favor on Thursday.