Robert Menendez is making things easier for Democrats stuck between showing support for Israel and backing the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.
On Monday, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee removed a pro-Israel bill from the committee’s agenda, Foreign Policy‘s John Hudson reports, after a proposed amendment threatened to split Democrats’ allegiances.
The bill, called the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, would strengthen ties between the two countries in a number of arenas, including military, trade, intelligence, and energy. But an amendment from the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., gave Menendez pause. Corker’s amendment would force President Obama to present any nuclear deal with Iran to Congress within three days of its signature, a situation the White House is trying to avoid. Congress could hold a “vote of disapproval” and conduct hearings on the nuclear deal, but its opinion would carry no legally binding weight.
This is not the first time lawmakers have attempted to attach Iran sanctions to a bill at the last minute. A tougher version of the Corker amendment, which would have required Obama to prove Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal in order to stave off a reapplication of economic sanctions, was bundled with a defense bill in December. It died soon after, thanks to pressure from the White House. In February, Senate Republicans tried unsuccessfully to add Iran sanctions to a bill about veterans’ benefits.
Here, the Corker amendment’s attempt to link the Israel issue with Iranian nuclear negotiations could be seen as a ploy to divide Democrats in the run-up to midterm elections, forcing them to choose between supporting Israel or the administration. On the other hand, some see no daylight between the two issues, arguing that a pro-Israel stance must include support for sanctions on Iran.
What We're Following See More »
"Senate GOP leaders picked up support Wednesday for their plan to pass a scaled-back bill to repeal a handful of elements in the current health law, and then open negotiations with House Republicans to try to bring together their two very different bills."
"Paul Manafort, who served as a top aide to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, on Tuesday provided congressional investigators notes he took during a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that has emerged as a focus in the investigation of Russian interference in the election. Manafort’s submission, which came as he was interviewed in a closed session by staff members for the Senate Intelligence Committee, could offer a key contemporaneous account of the June 2016 session."
By the narrowest of margins, the Senate voted 51-50 this afternoon to begin debate on the House's legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins defected from the GOP, but Vice President Pence broke a tie. Sen. John McCain returned from brain surgery to cast his vote.