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Tom Cotton's Important Reason Why He Might Miss Some of the Senate's Work on the Iran Nuclear Legislation


"My first child is due today."

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Thursday that while he has an ambitious plan to amend legislation requiring congressional approval of President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal, those plans could be upset for a very personal reason — the birth of his first child.

"I regret that I may miss some of this debate," he said on the Senate floor near the end of his speech. "I may have to ask some of my colleagues to submit amendments for me. My first child is due today."

"By the time this bill gets to the floor next week for debate and voting, I expect my first child will have arrived," he added. "But I will not allow my son to live under the threat of a nuclear Iran — the threat of nuclear attack and ultimate nuclear war — any more than I will allow the sons and daughters of all Americans to live under that threat."

The Senate started work on the legislation this week, and the broad support it has among Republicans and Democrats means it's sure to pass in some form. Obama had initially said he opposed any congressional involvement, but relented earlier this month when it became clear that members of both parties were demanding that Congress should approve any final nuclear agreement.

The bill put forward by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and ranking committee member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) would give Congress several weeks to consider and then approve the deal.

Some conservatives have argued that the legislative proposal is actually a concession to Obama, since the Iran deal should be submitted as a treaty that requires a two-thirds vote to be approved. However, there is no settled legal position on whether the Iran deal must be a treaty, or whether it's legally OK for it to be one of many executive actions that needs no congressional input.

The Corker/Cardin language is a middle-ground answer, in that it gives Congress a chance to disapprove of the deal if it wants. But Cotton said one change he wants to make is the addition of language that would let the Senate pass a resolution disapproving of the Iran deal by a simple majority vote, instead of 60 votes.

"We certainly shouldn't allow 41 senators to impede the will of 59 senators who disagree with any future deal from forcing the president to veto it and depriving him of the ability to claim that Congress has acquiesced to his action," he said.

Cotton said another plan he has is to make sure language is included that would "limit the administration's discretion in the future on reporting about breaches of an agreement."

Finally, Cotton said several amendments should be considered that ensure Iran gets no sanctions relief until it fully lives up to its obligations under the agreement. Cotton suggested several ideas, like prohibiting sanctions relief until the Fordo facility in Iran is closed.

But he also proposed ideas outside the narrow issue of Iran's nuclear program, ones that the Obama administration has rejected so far. For example, he said there should be no sanctions relief until Iran stops developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, ends its support for terrorist activities, and frees several hostages.

"Iran should recognize Israel's right to exist," he added. "It is not too much to simply say that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish and a democratic country."

"This is a country that just a few months ago was tweeting — tweeting — nine different reasons why Israel should be annihilated from the world," he added.

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