“The Republican leader has threatened us: ‘Look, we lost and we’re going to make you suffer,’” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor Tuesday night.
McConnell's amendment promise is part of a strategy to force Democrats to own their support of the Iran deal, which he outlined in a press conference last week. "Every single one of [the Democrats] is going to want to try to trivialize this vote, try to convince their constituents that they still are really tough on Iran," McConnell said, telling reporters to expect Democrats to put out press releases, give speeches, and even introduce legislation attacking Iran to soften their position after voting to keep the deal.
"We'll not be turning the Senate floor into an opportunity for sort of therapeutic get-well exercises on behalf of all the Democrats who ended up voting for this bill, who are going to want to try to deceive their constituents into thinking that it really wasn't that important," he said last week.
McConnell said at the time that he would take up any "bill that legitimately goes after the Iranian regime" but would not allow it to hit the Senate floor until "it has enough cosponsors to override a presidential veto." That doesn't seem to be the case with McConnell's amendment.
The ending of this story is clear: Supporters of the Iran deal have not only sufficient support to prevent a final vote on the Iran disapproval resolution, but also plenty of votes to uphold a certain presidential veto on the deal itself. Despite disapproval from a majority of members of Congress in both chambers, including Republicans and some Democrats, Congress will tacitly approve of Obama’s deal with Iran.
The issue could ignite both parties’ bases, as Democrats and Republicans cast the other party as politically motivated on a foreign policy issue that is of major import to voters, the president’s legacy, and the nation’s future in general. But the scene also highlights Congress’ continued tendency to get bogged down in political and procedural fights that have turned off a majority of the American public.
Both parties cast the vote as political, arguing that members on the other side of the aisle are taking a serious issue too lightly.
“It’s part of a larger retreat to campaigning instead of engaging on this important issue—ad hominem attacks instead of serious debate, campaign one-liners instead of intellectual arguments, and simply ignoring reality when it becomes inconvenient,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.
“This debate should not be about a president who will leave office in 16 months. It should be about where our country will be in 16 years,” McConnell added.
Clearly, the president is very much on the mind of both parties. Even if Democrats wave the white flag on cloture, the final vote count on the deal would be the same. All 100 members of the Senate have already staked out their positions on the deal and voted as such, so a reversal by any member at this point would be unheard of. Ad makers already have their eyes on the Democrats who voted against cloture, all of whom publicly support the deal. The only purpose of getting an up-or-down vote would be to force Obama to veto a disapproval resolution that has majority support in both chambers.