Menendez Keeps Democrats From Having to Choose Between Supporting Israel and Negotiations With Iran

The New Jersey lawmaker has struck down an amendment that would have linked Iran sanctions to a pro-Israel bill.

National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
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Kaveh Waddell
May 21, 2014, 1:16 a.m.

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.

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