Democrats Filibuster Iran Deal Vote in Senate; Obama Calls it ‘a Victory for Diplomacy’

Patrick Goodenough | September 10, 2015 | 9:52pm EDT
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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., left, shakes hands with Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill.,, right, after speaking with reporters following the Senate vote on the Iran nuclear agreement on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – Senate Democrats on Thursday used a procedural device to block a vote on a resolution disapproving the Iran nuclear agreement, saving President Obama the discomfiture of having to veto a measure of opposition to a signature foreign policy initiative.

“Yes!,” came an exclamation as the number of votes to prevent the disapproval motion from moving forward reached the target of 41 required by Iran deal supporters. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) punched the air with both fists in evident delight at the outcome.

The final vote was 58-42, with Republicans – joined by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ben Cardin of Maryland – falling two votes short of the 60 needed to move forward with the resolution disapproving Obama’s nuclear deal.

The president welcomed the vote, calling it “historic” and “a victory for diplomacy.”

A number of Republican senators expressed disbelief that Democrats, having voted universally in favor of bipartisan legislation allowing Congress to review and potentially vote for or against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were now filibustering the GOP-led resolution of disapproval that arose out of that review process.

“Not a single Democrat voted against the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recalled. “They told us this was an issue too important for political games.”

“Democratic senators just voted to filibuster and block the American people from even having a real vote on one of the most consequential foreign policy issues of our time,” he said.

“It’s telling that Democrats would go to such extreme lengths to prevent President Obama from even having to consider legislation on this issue,” McConnell said.

“The president’s proud of the deal. I don’t know why he’d be reluctant to veto a resolution of disapproval that’s put on his desk. He’s having press conferences about it, he’s bragging about it. He thinks it’s really great,” he said. “What are you protecting him from?”

McConnell signaled that he’d schedule another vote on the matter, next week, but Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested the result would be the same and said it would be a “waste of time.”

“I want to say to everyone within the sound of my voice: The Senate has spoken, and they’ve spoken with a clarion voice,” Reid said. “And declared that the historic agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon will stand.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accused Reid of having “come out of nowhere to change what was the common understanding of how we’d proceed – get 60 votes, a simple majority, led the president act as he wishes.”

“But no, we couldn’t do that. You’re more worried about protecting Barak Obama from having to veto this than you are having a debate on the floor of the Senate,” he said.

Graham also lashed out at Democrats who support the JCPOA for claiming to be staunch supporters of Israel – whose government is vociferously opposed to the nuclear agreement.

“If I hear one more comment from my Democratic friends about how much they love Israel – with friends like this, you don’t need an enemy,” he said, before quoting Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech Wednesday predicting that Israel would no longer exist in 25 years’ time.

‘Stunning display of partisan loyalty and willful blindness’

Menendez, after explaining why he was going against the administration and party leadership and opposing the JCPOA, repeated a line from a speech he gave over the summer: “If Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it.”

Secretary of State John Kerry and undersecretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman share a celebratory toast of madeira wine on the flight back to Washington from the nuclear talks in Vienna, on July 14, 2015 (Photo: State Department/Public Domain)

Obama welcomed the Senate action, calling it “a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world.”

“For nearly two years, we negotiated from a position of strength to reach an agreement that meets our core objectives,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

After the Senate session the lone senator who voted against the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act last spring, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), recalled that he did so after Democrats rejected an amendment he proposed that would have guaranteed a vote.

“It was rejected by Democrats because their goal all along was to deny Congress any vote or say on this deal.”

“Political fealty to President Obama’s hoped-for legacy in foreign affairs means this dangerous deal will likely move forward, despite the overwhelming and bipartisan opposition to it in Congress and the clear will of the American people,” Cotton said.

“History will remember this stunning display of partisan loyalty and willful blindness. And it will remember this Senate as the one that – 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.”

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