The ultra right's hero on Iran deal was all alone Thursday.
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton was unable to get a single one of the 46 senators who signed his March open letter to the leaders of Iran to join him in voting against the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act
Thursday afternoon. After two weeks of debate, compromising and maneuvering, the Senate passed the watered-down bill that gives Congress 30 days to review any deal President Obama agrees to regarding Iran's nuclear program. The bill now moves on to the House, where a vote is expected next week.
From the perspective of Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and other conservatives, the bill is too weak.
In a speech Wednesday, Cruz said, "This legislation is not a victory for Congress." If negotiators from the United States, the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany and Iran come to an agreement, Cruz lamented, removal of the economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program would allow "tens of billions of dollars to flow to terrorists" in Tehran, which might go ahead and secretly build a nuke anyway. The blood of the "millions of Americans" that they might kill would be on the hands of the Obama administration, Cruz said.
All the review bill would do, Cruz said, is create a slight delay in the deal with Iran while Congress looked it over. But if Congress passed a resolution of disapproval under a provision of the review bill, it wouldn't matter, he said, because enough Democrats—34—would vote against an override of the president's veto.
But when the roll was called Thursday, Cruz voted for the bill anyway. So did Rubio and every other conservative who had raised objections.
Some of those conservatives—Rubio among them—are still irked that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and ranking committee Democrat Ben Cardin worked together to keep several "poison pill" amendments from being debated and voted on even though McConnell had pledged an open amendment process. Some of those amendments—out of some 60 Republicans had proposed—might have deep-sixed any deal with Iran by including requirements that would have made it impossible for the Obama administration to continue negotiating.
While the hardliners have said they just wanted a better bill in order to get a better deal with Iran. the reality is that they wanted to wreck negotiations with Iran. They say Tehran will cheat under any agreement to restrict its nuclear program to keep it from developing a nuclear bomb.
Cotton made his intentions quite clear in January when he told an audience at the Heritage Foundation:
Certain voices call for congressional restraint urging Congress not to act now, lest Iran walk away from the negotiating table, undermining the fabled yet always absent moderates in Iran. But the end of these negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence — a feature, not a bug.
Capping the debate Thursday, Sen. Corker, who said he wanted a stronger bill, too, but bent in order to make the bill solidly bipartisan, said that if it didn't pass, there would be no review by Congress of the deal. "In summary, no review. No bill, no oversight." Passing it, he said, would be taking back power that is now in the president's hands.