Seeking to end a Republican feud, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky moved Tuesday evening to wrap up debate on a bill that would give Congress the power to review a nuclear agreement with Iran.
“We’re going to move quickly,” McConnell told reporters after meeting privately with GOP senators to plot strategy.
With the bill bogged down in the Senate for the last week, McConnell filed a cloture motion, beginning a process that would formally bring debate to an end.
Democrats and Republicans alike predicted the bill will eventually pass by a large margin. But McConnell had been under growing pressure to act after GOP senators filed 67 amendments.
A major sticking point came last week when Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a 2016 presidential candidate, introduced an amendment that would force Iran to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
Democrats fear that any major changes would prompt a veto by President Barack Obama.
Earlier Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that he was still trying to negotiate a deal that would allow votes on a limited number of amendments.
The bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month on a vote of 19-0. It would require any agreement with Iran to be submitted for congressional review. And it would give Congress the right to approve a deal with Iran before any congressional sanctions were removed.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada noted that Democrats had not filed a single amendment. He said that filing cloture was the right thing to do.
"It’s the only way to pass this meritorious legislation," Reid said.
McConnell called the debate "one of the most important issues of our time." And he said it should be a bipartisan issue, as well.
"Preventing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism from getting access to nuclear weapons should be the goal of our senators no matter what party they belong to," McConnell said.
The timing of a final vote on the bill remained unknown last night. Some Republicans expressed hope that it would happen as soon as Thursday, but Reid predicted that it won’t happen until next week.
McConnell said he’s eager to have the Senate next consider a trade-promotion authority bill.
That bill would make it easier for Congress to approve trade pacts negotiated by the Obama administration, limiting debate and allowing Congress to only take an up-or-down vote.