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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

By Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama achieved perhaps the greatest foreign policy victory of his six years in office on Thursday, when a Republican-backed effort to kill the Iran nuclear agreement was narrowly blocked in the U.S. Senate, clearing the way for the deal’s implementation.

Forty Democrats and two independents voted to block a resolution disapproving of the pact in the 100-member chamber, one more than the minimum needed to keep it from advancing.

“This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” Obama said in a statement after a vote he termed “an historic step forward.”

Senate Republicans insisted the fight was not over, however.

The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, immediately took steps to clear the way for the chamber to consider the matter again, hoping some Democrats would vote differently next time.

“We’ll revisit the issue next week and see if maybe any folks want to change their minds,” he said in a speech angrily denouncing the vote.

Under a law Obama signed in May, Congress has a 60-day period ending on Sept. 17 to pass a resolution disapproving of the international agreement.

If such a resolution were to pass, and survive Obama’s promised veto, it would bar the president from waiving many U.S. sanctions on Tehran, a key component of the nuclear deal.

But there was no sign any votes would change, and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid bluntly responded, “This matter is over with.”

Reid urged McConnell to move on to other legislation, including bills providing long-term highway and transportation funding and urgent legislation to fund the government in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and avoid a government shutdown.

“This is a situation where he’s (McConnell) lost the vote and it’s a situation where he is just not in touch with reality as it exists,” Reid said.

The defeat came despite an intense $40 million lobbying campaign against the agreement, largely by conservative pro-Israel groups.

Although the nuclear deal was reached after two years of negotiations with Iran by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vociferously opposed the agreement. Netanyahu said the deal demanded too little from Iran in exchange for sanctions relief and would strengthen a country he sees as a threat to Israel’s existence.


Republican in the House of Representatives meanwhile pushed ahead with legislation critical of the nuclear accord. They raised the possibility of filing suit against Obama over the Iran deal or attaching Iran-related legislation to a bill funding the government.

“This is a bad deal with decades-long consequences for the security of the American people and our allies. And we’ll use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow, and delay this agreement from being fully implemented,” House Speaker John Boehner told a news conference.

Republicans are already using the Iran deal in campaigning against Democrats in the 2016 election. On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were among the headliners at a raucous anti-deal rally on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

But House Republicans split over how to handle the agreement, after weeks of marching in lockstep in opposition to the nuclear deal, announced on July 14.

This week, as Democrats gathered more than enough votes to protect the nuclear deal, House Republicans came up with their own plan for three Iran-related votes after a rebellion by some of the party’s most conservative lawmakers.

On Thursday, House members voted strictly along party lines, with 245 Republicans voting yes and 186 Democrats voting no, to pass a resolution finding that Obama had not complied with terms of the Iran nuclear review act he signed in May.

Some Republicans argued that the 60-day window for reviewing the deal had never opened because Obama had not sent Congress details of what they termed “secret side deals” regarding inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The House was to vote on Friday on two other Iran-related measures, a resolution of approval of the Iran deal that Republicans hoped to defeat by a wide margin, and a separate one that would bar Obama from waiving sanctions.

But none of the three would have a direct impact on the nuclear pact similar to that of a disapproval resolution, a mechanism outlined in the Iran review act.

The House has not scheduled a vote on its own resolution of disapproval. And there are no plans now for the Senate to vote on legislation similar to the three measures being considered in the House.

The 42 members of the Senate Democratic caucus who supported the nuclear deal on Thursday are also far more than the 34 senators whose votes would be needed to sustain an Obama veto.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Susan Heavey, Bill Trott and Steve Orlofsky)

Photo: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2nd R) returns to his office after delivering remarks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


    Here we go again! I guess we have another government shutdown to look forward to in October. How long will we pay government workers to stay at home this time”

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      Just another GOP ploy to amass more revenue to flush to Republican states and their campaign cronies in Corporate America. You know where this GOP is going…and it definitely is not forward.

    • ralphkr

      Yep, JPH, first we always pass an act to pay all the laid off workers for the hours they missed and then EVERYBODY gets overtime pay playing catch up on the work that piled up during the shut down.

  • @HawaiianTater

    Incoming Republican temper tantrums in 3… 2… 1…

  • Dominick Vila

    My confidence on our elected officials in Congress, minus Schumer and a couple of others, just went up exponentially. It takes courage and a lot of pragmatism to oppose and fight the Israeli lobby and the obtuse Tea Party zealots whose idea of governance is to oppose anything that may help our economy, help create jobs, and/or help stabilize critical parts of the world.
    Not surprisingly, Mitch McConnell, the man who proudly acknowledges that his policies of obstructionism, that delayed the economic recovery and caused so much pain and misery to millions of Americans, for the express purpose of making sure President Obama was not re-elected, is once again neglecting budget reconciliation, debate over investment in infrastructure, and other matters critical to our well being, because Bibi told him to keep on fighting to prevent a stable Persian Gulf that may affect the “subsidies” we have been giving Israel during the past several decades while criticizing the subsidies that American citizens get when they cannot afford to pay health insurance premiums.

  • yabbed

    Charles Schumer is my NY senator but I adamantly oppose his attempt to be leader in the Senate of the Democratic Party after he has shown his true allegiance is not to the Democratic Party or to our Democratic president or to the best interests of the USA. DIck Durbin was rightfully in line for that job until Harry Reid for some reason put forth Schumer for the position. It was Dick Durbin in the Senate who rallied the votes President Obama needed for the Iran agreement and it is Dick Durbin who deserves to be Democratic leader in the Senate, not Schumer.

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      I so agree with you. I loved the idea that Schumer might one day run for president. Now? He has lost my respect. As you so eloquently stated, Schumer has proven where his truest allegiance lies. And, it isn’t with the country that gave him so much opportunity. I also favor Durbin for Senate Majority Leader. In the House? I’d want Rick Nolan, D-MN.

      Have you heard Nolan on the floor of the House? Wow! I thought I was listening to the UK Parliament in session, not the US House of Reps. Nolan is a powerful speaker, minces no words and should be a beacon of light the rest of the Dems should follow.

      The elocution difference between Sanders and Nolan is that Sanders has a slight tone of defeat. Nolan doesn’t. He makes his point, doesn’t care if the GOP likes what he says or not and is unyielding.

    • jmprint

      I second your motion.

    • John Murchison

      here here

    • greenlantern1

      Partial agreement.
      However; he is a vast improvement over what Senator D’Amato was!!

    • Bob Eddy


  • Eleanore Whitaker

    The Iran Treaty was not the sole decision and design of the US government. The treaty was always going to be approved. To not do so would make the US look like fools among the rest of the international allies.

    The Israel supporters in the US need to get over it. First of all, Israel HAS nukes. Why wouldn’t their neighbors want equal power? If Israelis are not trusted, now is the time to ask themselves why. Now is the time to ask themselves why they are always the common denominator in their problems that always lead to their playing “victim.” That victim card is just too old for credibility.

    We can’t be blind to what Israel did to Lebanon and is now doing in the West Bank to Palestinians. But, Israel wants trust? We may as well trust Madoff.

  • greenlantern1

    President Reagan, not President Obama, ordered Oliver North to sell arms to Ayatollah Khomeini!
    NEATO idea?

  • A_Real_Einstein

    Obama is the greatest President of our generation.

  • Nick

    Until people have been in that region and understand our current monetary policy, they will never understand why this deal had to go through. We must never trust a junior senator that’s trying to make a name for himself on issues like this.

  • Bob Eddy

    I don’t know what us more satisfying. The fact that this deal is a victory of diplomacy over war or that it is yet another victory over Republican obstructionism.

  • Polana

    We should start a nation wide petition to remove DINO Shimmer the shmuck from obtaining the position and put in either Durbin , Nolan or even Murphy. Vote the other DINOS out of the office. Give a Repukes a credit – they do stand together no matter what. As bad as they R, they R vote as 1 even if they don’t agree on some of the issues.
    Lets start a collection for one way ticket for some of them to move to Israel. BIBI will welcome them w/red carpet and will give them a place to live forever.

  • Sand_Cat

    The idiots lose again. May it ever be so.

  • FireBaron

    Back in the 1940s, it was a Republican Senator who reminded his fellows that the senate should have no say over a president’s foreign policy outside of approving treaties and appointments.