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U.S. Senate Democrats Block Vote On Iran Nuclear Deal

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that the vote would not be the Senate's last word, and he set the stage for another vote next week.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that the vote would not be the Senate's last word, and he set the stage for another vote next week.

A move in the U.S. Senate to hold a vote of disapproval on the international nuclear deal with Iran has been defeated on a first vote.

Sixty votes in favor were needed to move the resolution forward, but the vote on September 10 was 58-42 -- two votes short -- with Democrats largely voting against and Republicans voting in favor.

President Obama quickly declared victory in the face of unanimous Republican opposition on Capitol Hill and from GOP candidates who hope to replace him in 2016.

"This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world," the president said. "Going forward, we will turn to the critical work of implementing and verifying this deal so that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon."

But Republican lawmakers were not ready yet to concede defeat, and they have until September 17 to weigh in on the nuclear deal, which gradually lifts sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that the vote would not be the Senate's last word, and he set the stage for another vote next week.

"No amount of saying this issue is over makes it over," McConnell declared, adding that if a Republican wins the White House next year, "I say to Iranian observers of the debate, [the deal] will be looked on anew."

But Democrats led by Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada promised that any further votes would have the same outcome "and are just simply a waste of time."

"People around the world should know today's outcome was clear, decisive, and final," Reid said.

In the House, Republicans have not given up on blocking the deal and they have an elaborate gameplan to try to delay and derail the agreement.

In the first of several votes planned by the House Republican leadership, the House late on September 10 agreed on a party-line 245-186 vote to a measure stipulating that Obama had not properly submitted all documents related to the accord for Congress's review, and therefore a 60-day review clock had not really started.

That vote will be followed on September 11 by votes on a bill to approve the accord -- which is doomed to fail because of unanimous Republican opposition -- and on a measure preventing Obama from lifting congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran.

"This debate is far from over, and frankly, it's just beginning," House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio-Republican) said. "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."

White House officials insist the House Republican maneuvers have little chance of bearing results and have sarcastically branded the complicated scheme the "Tortilla Coast Gambit," in reference to a Capitol Hill restaurant where Tea Party lawmakers plan their moves

The nuclear deal was agreed to by six world powers and Iran in Vienna on July 14 after years of negotiations.

Western powers feared Iran's nuclear program was being used covertly to prepare for the production of atomic weapons.

Iran has said its program is strictly for peaceful purposes.

Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois) said that "we have one goal in mind, shared by many nations around the world: to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I believe this agreement comes as close to achieving that as we can hope for at this moment."

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina), a fierce opponent of the nuclear deal, warned Democratic senators that "You own this. You own every 'I' and every 'T' and every bullet, and you own everything that is to follow. And it's going to be holy hell."

Earlier on September 10, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote in The Washington Post that voting by Congress this week "is a crucial opportunity at a time of heightened global uncertainty to show what diplomacy can achieve."

Cameron, Merkel, and Hollande said in the article that two years of "tough, detailed negotiation have produced an agreement that closes off all possible routes to an Iranian nuclear weapon."

The mainly Republican critics of the deal have argued that Obama's administration gave Iran too may concessions in negotiating the deal.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters