McConnell Delays Iran Oversight Vote Amid Democratic Opposition

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed a floor debate planned for next week on legislation requiring congressional review of any nuclear deal with Iran amid Democratic opposition to moving that soon.

Immediately following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to Congress, McConnell had told reporters he planned to bring the congressional oversight measure to the floor next week. Netanyahu sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s effort to reach a nuclear accord with Iran.

McConnell’s announcement of the planned vote spurred a backlash from Democrats, including some of the bill’s co-sponsors, who raised concern that Senate action now could damage the talks.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, the bill’s chief sponsor, said Wednesday he would delay a committee vote on the measure -- which had been planned for March 10 -- until after the March 24 negotiating deadline. The State Department has said the goal to reach the framework for a deal is actually the end of March.

Corker said in a statement Thursday that the delay would help efforts to get a veto-proof, 67-vote majority for the measure, S. 615. Obama’s administration has threatened a veto.

“The strongest signal we can send to the U.S. negotiators is having a veto-proof majority in support of Congress weighing in on any final nuclear deal with Iran,” Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said Thursday.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, confirmed that the plan to start debate on the bill early next week had been dropped.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, said in a statement, “The relationship between the United States and Israel is at its strongest when both parties are working in tandem, and those of us that value that relationship are glad that Leader McConnell backed off.”

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez as well as eight other Democrats and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Wednesday they would only back the measure if it’s considered after the March 24 deadline. Also urging a delay was Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

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