Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has warned Senate Democrats not to block the Republicans' resolution to disapprove of the Iran nuclear energy deal. If they do, McConnell says he will add amendments to the deal, including ones focused on the safety of Israel and the three U.S. prisoners being held in Iran.
“I will file on an amendment that would prevent the president from lifting sanctions until Iran meets two simple benchmarks,” McConnell said, according to The Hill. “It must formally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and it must release the American citizens being held in Iranian custody.”
The resolution of disapproval was already blocked once by Senate Democrats, but is up for a second vote, and the Dems are expected to block it once again.
A spokesperson for McConnell said the Kentucky Senator would file a motion of cloture on the amendment if Democrats vote it down again, forcing a procedural vote later in the week, The Hill reported.
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While the Obama administration and many Dems say the Iran deal should only focus on Iran's development of nuclear weapons, McConnell says that the United States should do all it can to protect the Americans currently being held hostage by the Iranian government.
“My strong preference is for Democrats to simply allow an up-or-down vote on the president’s Iran deal,” McConnell said. “But if they’re determined to make that impossible, then at the very least we should be able to provide some protection to Israel and long-overdue relief to Americans who’ve languished in Iranian custody for years.”
McConnell’s latest actions are likely to put political pressure on Democrats who will not want to be seen as voting down a resolution to free American hostages or protect Israel’s right to exist. Previously, Democrats called these amendments “poison pills” meant to destroy the deal altogether.
McConnell has already scheduled a vote for Sept. 17 to halt the removal of U.S.-led sanctions on Iran until the nation accepts Israel’s right as a state and releases the three prisoners in captivity.
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On Sept. 15, Republicans again failed to reach the 60 votes needed to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Democrats have said that their votes will not change no matter how many times a vote is cast.
McConnell has previously called the Iran deal “a defining issue” for the 2016 presidential election. It will likely be a topic discussed among the 16 Republican presidential contenders during the second GOP debate tonight at 8 p.m. ET.