Republican efforts to stop the nuclear deal with Iran ended in failure Thursday, thwarted by unflinching Democratic support for President Obama’s landmark accord and familiar GOP infighting.
With no clear strategy remaining to prevent the internationally backed deal, Republican leaders in Congress were left conducting largely symbolic votes that will register lawmakers’ rejection of the deal but do nothing to upend it.
In the Senate, Republicans were met with a Democratic filibuster that blocked a resolution of disapproval, preventing it from being sent to the president’s desk and depriving the GOP of a hoped-for veto showdown. On a vote of 58 to 42, the Democratic and independent senators backing the agreement stopped Republicans from reaching the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the disapproval measure.
Four Democrats who opposed the deal joined all 54 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R‑Ky.) vowed to try again.
“No amount of saying this is over makes it over,” McConnell said, adding that if Democrats were so proud of the Iran deal, they should embrace the outcome. “Break out the champagne. Celebrate. Take credit for it. You own it.” He set up a vote next week to “move past this procedural snag.”
Cry us a river, Senator McConnell. Under the arcane, undemocratic U.S. Senate rules you have so often abused to your advantage, it takes a supermajority to do almost anything of consequence. You knew you needed sixty votes for this resolution of disapproval, and you thus needed the Senate Democratic caucus to seriously fracture to pass a resolution disapproving of the JCPOA with Iran.
That didn’t happen, and now you’re mad.
You’re a first-class hypocrite, Senator McConnell. When you were Minority Leader, you used Senate rules on countless occasions to block Congress from taking action to solve a problem. Your use of delaying and blocking tactics was extensive and unprecedented. You can hardly complain that Democrats are now availing themselves of the same procedural remedies you so often used to attain your ends during the first six years of Barack Obama’s presidency. And yet, you are anyway.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) framed it as one of the most important foreign policy debates of the past decade and suggested Democrats would pay a political price.
He called the Democratic obstruction “a tragedy.”
“This is a deal that will far outlast one administration. The President may have the luxury of vacating office in a few months, but many of our responsibilities extend beyond that,” he said. “The American people will remember where we stand today.”
McConnell filed a motion Thursday afternoon setting up another vote on the disapproval measure next week.
Many members of Congress will also be vacating office in a few months. Senator McConnell may not even be Majority Leader after the 2016 presidential elections, if Democrats are successful in recapturing the majority. (Democrats only have ten Senate seats to defend next year, while Republicans have twenty-four.)
Contrary to what Senator McConnell believes, there is nothing tragic about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a big win not only for American diplomacy, but for our national defense and the world community. Will it work? That remains to be seen.
But, as former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft has written, “Iran is fully implementing the interim agreement that has placed strict limits on its nuclear program since January 2014 while the final agreement was being negotiated. If Iran demonstrates the same resolve under the JCPOA, the world will be a much safer place. And if it does not, we will know in time to react appropriately.”
Democrats in Congress who voted to uphold the JCPOA have done a great service for their country. It is Mitch McConnell and his obstructionist Republican colleagues who are the wrong side of history, and deserve to pay a price.