U.s. Senate struggles to pass iran deal: democrats block vote

For the second time, Republicans fail to stop Obama’s key foreign policy initiative in the Senate. They announce further resistance.

Milestone reached, vote blocked: Harry Reid (l.) and Richard Durbin of the Democrats congratulate each other. Photo: ap

Senators from U.S. President Barack Obama’s party have blocked a vote on a resolution rejecting the Iran nuclear deal for the second time. The initiative, put forward by Republicans, failed again Tuesday to reach 60 of the 100 votes needed to end debate on the agreement with Tehran.

Fifty-six senators voted in favor Tuesday, leaving Republicans four votes short this time. Such a Republican push was already unsuccessful last Thursday – when 58 senators had voted in favor.

Even before the new vote, it was considered unlikely that the opposition Republicans would be able to unite the necessary votes behind them this time. They do have 54 votes in the Senate with which they could disapprove the treaty. However, the rules of procedure give the Democrats the option of blocking a resolution through standing speeches, unless 60 senators demand the end of debate.

Given the reservations of many U.S. citizens about the Iran deal, the vote had been intended by Republicans primarily to score political points against Democrats and to be able to invoke their current position in future Senate debates.

Review deadline ends Thursday

The final word on the Iran deal has not yet been spoken in the Senate, however, although the time to review the agreement expires on Thursday. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a vote Thursday on a measure to prohibit Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran until Tehran recognizes Israel as a state and releases detained Americans. "Either way, this debate will continue," the Republican said.

McConnell criticized Democrats for blocking the vote on a rejection. "A strong, bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives voted to reject the deal. A strong bipartisan majority of the Senate would also reject the deal," he said during debate before the vote. "If only Democratic senators would stop trying to keep the American people from getting a final vote on one of the most important foreign policy issues of our time."

Tuesday’s vote, on the other hand, was an exercise in futility, said the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin. "We had this election last week," he said. "I don’t know why we’re repeating the game." Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said the matter is now settled. The votes were a charade, he said.

Iran had agreed in mid-July with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany to curtail and control its nuclear program. In return, economic sanctions against Tehran are to be lifted. Critics, however, do not believe that Iran can be permanently prevented from building a nuclear bomb in this way.

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