As I reported on Friday, Senate Republican leaders are applying new pressure to their Democratic colleagues who filibustered a vote on President Obama's unpopular, unilateral Iran deal last week. With Harry Reid demanding that the upper chamber simply "move on" without even considering the consequential geopolitical agreement, Mitch McConnell is warning that an ongoing filibuster will result in the introduction of several amendments designed to make Reid's caucus squirm:
Details from McConnell's floor speech:
“Democrats seem to think they can end the discussion by blocking an up-or-down vote, then turn around and pretend they care deeply about Israel and human rights. Well if they vote again to deny the American people a final vote, they’ll have a chance to test the theory. I will file on an amendment that would prevent the President from lifting sanctions until Iran meets two simple benchmarks: It must formally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and it must release the American citizens being held in Iranian custody. The President has so far resisted linking his deal — a deal that fails to end Iran’s enrichment program, while leaving it as an American-recognized nuclear threshold state — to other aspects of Iran’s conduct. But linkage is appropriate, and in this negotiation would have been wise. “Indeed, Senators say they understand the importance of standing up for an ally like Israel in a dangerous region, and the Senate voted unanimously just a few months ago in calling for Iranian leaders to release those Americans.
Republican leadership agreed to jettison these same amendments in order to facilitate the overwhelming bipartisan passage of the Corker-Cardin bill, which forced President Obama to abandon his stance that Congress should have no role in reviewing the nuclear agreement. The goal at that time was to guarantee the legislative branch some say in the matter, so some attempts to include "poison pill" add-ons to the legislative language were blocked. Now that 42 Senate Democrats -- all of whom voted for Corker-Cardin to demand a voice in the process -- are filibustering their own ability to actually vote on the final deal, McConnell is threatening to revive some of the toughest amendments that were set aside in the name of consensus-building. Do Senate Democrats want to go on the record blocking a vote on the Iran deal while also casting votes that can and will be cast as letting the Iranian regime off the hook on its anti-Israel fanaticism and continued imprisonment of four US citizens? We'll see if they're willing to take those lumps, too -- all in the service of sparing Obama a temporary political humiliation. One more point: Some conservatives are calling on McConnell et al to nuke the filibuster to force this up-or-down vote. While I understand that temptation, I think such a move would be short-sighted and ineffectual. Obama would veto the disapproval resolution anyway (assuming the House finally passed it), and the deal would go into effect. Republicans would have ended the legislative filibuster -- a valuable tool that has stopped some truly terrible ideas over the years -- to facilitate a messaging vote, albeit an valuable one. I'm under no illusions that Democrats won't eventually toss out the filibuster altogether if given the chance; they've already undone a major element of those rules to advance their temporary agenda. If Republicans are going to 'go nuclear' themselves, I'd recommend waiting for a more valuable moment to do so -- perhaps to move crucial conservative legislation onto a Republican president's desk to be signed into law, not to run straight into Obama's brick wall.
UPDATE - Charles Krauthammer makes the counter-case on the nuclear option.
UPDATE II - Democrats have again filibustered a vote on the Iran deal, the vote was identical to last week's 58-42. Bring on the hardball amendments. More than 60 percent of Congress has come out against the agreement, including dozens of Democrats. The American people are heavily opposed to the pact.
UPDATE III - McConnell's floor speech, before Democrats again held together to sustain the filibuster: