A Senate Democrat late Wednesday blocked an attempt by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to require that Congress affirmatively approve of President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal before it takes effect, instead of allowing it to take effect automatically unless Congress votes to kill it.
Cruz and some other Republicans have opposed the Iran nuclear legislation worked out by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). They note that while the bill would give Congress a chance to review the agreement, it would only give Congress the option of passing a resolution disapproving of the deal.
It's possible such a resolution could pass both the House and Senate. But Cruz and others have said even if that happens, Obama could veto it, and it would take a two-thirds majority vote to override that veto. In that case, it would only take 34 senators to prevent a veto override, which means a one-third minority of the Senate would have the power to implement Obama's agreement.
Cruz has said it should be the reverse — that a clear majority of Congress should have to say it likes the deal before it can take effect. He formally offered an amendment to the legislation that would implement that change.
"All this amendment does is ensure that the burden is on President Obama to persuade Congress and the American people that the deal is a good one, or at a very minimum is not a terrible threat to the national security of the United States of America," he said.
Cruz spoke at length about his objections to the emerging Iran deal, then asked senators for consent that he be allowed to offer his amendment. But Cardin stepped up to object, blocking the unanimous consent Cruz needed.
Cardin said he opposed Cruz's language for three reasons. He said it would probably defeat the bill, said it would make ongoing negotiations harder because of Congress's involvement, and said it would weaken the U.S. position in the talks and delay a final deal.
"For all those reasons, Mr. President, I do object," Cardin said.
Cruz said he'd be open to changing his proposal to require Congress to hold a quick vote, if Cardin was worried about delays. But Cardin said the bill is already "balanced."
"So even though it's a very friendly suggestion, I can't take you up on it," he said.
Cruz ended the back-and-forth by charging Democrats with abandoning national security as a priority in order to side with Obama for political reasons.
"It is disappointing to see Democratic senators putting partisan politics above our national security," he said. "We should stand together to protect America."
While Cardin stepped up to oppose Cruz, Cruz seems to be facing opposition from within his own party as well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday moved to end debate on the Iran bill, a sign he too wants to get the bill to the floor for a vote without any amendments.
Cruz and others like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have said they favor amendments making the congressional review process a lot tougher, but at this rate, the Senate could pass the bill by Thursday without any amendments.