Democratic senators block amendment linking Iran deal to Israel, U.S. prisoners

Marcy Oster

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate blocked an amendment to the Iran nuclear deal linking the lifting of sanctions with Iran’s release of American prisoners and its public acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist.

On Thursday, senators voted 53-45 in favor of the amendment, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced the amendment  as part of a final push to stop the nuclear agreement.

Jewish lawmakers Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., along with Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who opposes the nuclear agreement, joined Democrats in voting no. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also opposes the Iran deal, was the only Democrat to vote for McConnell’s amendment.

Cardin said before the vote that even if Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist, “I must tell you that I would have no trust in their statement or confidence in their statement,” The Hill reported.

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Menendez said he voted no because he did not “want to give any idea that we would support this agreement” just because four Americans would be released and Iran would recognize Israel.

McConnell countered that his amendment was the least the Senate could do if they could not pass a resolution of disapproval.

The Obama administration has long argued that the nuclear agreement has a narrow scope and outstanding issues, including human rights abuses and threats made against the United States and Israel, were not part of the negotiations between world powers and Iran that concluded in July.

Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Thursday was the final day for Congress to pass a resolution of disapproval on the Iran deal, though some Republicans – notably Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., the lone Jewish Republican in Congress – argue that the clock will not start until the side agreements between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran are made available for review.

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