Menendez scuttles pro-Israel bill over an amendment that would have given Congress a voice in any Iranian deal
posted at 1:21 pm on May 20, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
Early this year, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act — a proposed bill that would intensify economic sanctions against Iran if and when it fails to meet the terms of any eventual international agreement that “must make it impossible [for Iran] to develop a nuclear weapon” — had an informally veto-proof majority before Democrats started bailing out at the behest of ardent lobbying against it by the White House. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was one of the main leaders on that legislation before he along with Harry Reid dutifully complied with the White House’s oppugnancy, and Menendez is apparently still taking those don’t-mess-with-our-process-on-Iran marching orders from the White House on a new piece of pro-Israel legislation.
The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act would designate Israel as our “major strategic partner” and strengthen our intelligence and military ties, but last Thursday, Republican Sen. Bob Corker introduced an amendment that would give Congress the right to hold a “vote of disapproval” on any U.S.-sponsored deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The amendment wouldn’t carry the full force of the law, but it would allow Congress to hold hearings and very publicly and explicitly express its feelings on the matter; Josh Rogin at The Daily Beast has more from Corker:
“Let’s face it, Congress has been totally iced out on this issue since its inception. I cannot imagine an issue that’s more important to Israel than these negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons,” Corker said. “Hopefully many Democrats would agree that we should at least have an opportunity to weigh in on the final agreement… after its negotiated.” …
Corker says his new idea should be more palatable because it only provides for hearings and a vote, without dictating final terms of the negotiations or levying new sanctions. …
“We’re not adding any sanctions, we’re not involving ourselves in the negotiations, we just want to be able to weigh in on it. So it doesn’t impede their ability to negotiate,” Corker said. “This is the only opportunity for Congress to have an opportunity to weigh in on the negotiations.”
But the normally hawkish Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, just nixed the entire bill from the agenda for now because of Corker’s proposed amendment — which, as the WFB explains, is no small thing, what with all the lobbying that pro-Israel groups have been doing in the legislation’s favor:
The fallout from a rushed, late night decision by a leading Democrat to scuttle key pro-Israel legislation in a bid to appease the Obama administration threatens to complicate efforts by Democrats to hold on to the Senate, according to sources on Capitol Hill and in the pro-Israel community. …
Menendez called off the vote in order to prevent Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) from introducing an amendment that would grant Congress a final say on any deal the Obama administration strikes with Iran regarding its contested nuclear program, according to congressional aides. …
Corker’s Iran oversight measure would have put Senate Democrats in a tricky political position, forcing them to choose between the White House and the pro-Israel community just months before critical mid-term elections.
Senior officials in the pro-Israel community warned that Menendez’s efforts to insulate his fellow Democrats from taking a politically inconvenient vote will be remembered come November.
“How many more times is this president going to force Senate Democrats to walk the plank for his failed policies?” asked one official with a Washington, D.C.-based pro-Israel group who requested anonymity.
An excellent question, no?