The second time around

Senate Republicans oppose the catastrophic deal into which President Obama has entered with Iran, yet they have been unable even to secure a vote on the merits. Senate Democrats including Minnesota’s own Al Franken (who undoubtedly thinks it’s a good deal) and Amy Klobuchar (who knows better but acts out of pure political calculation) have blocked a vote on the merits of the deal by means of the filibuster. The vote to support the filibuster secured 42 Democratic votes, sufficient to prevent a resolution of disapproval from reaching the floor for a vote.

That left Senate Republicans with options, including the so-called nuclear option (doing away with the filibuster), at least on the deal. Applied to the Iran deal, the filibuster betrays the Senate’s 98-1 vote to enact the Corker-Cardin review deal in the first place. Or perhaps Senate Republicans had no alternative to folding.

Republican leadership adopted what is to me a mystifying course of action. They chose to invite Democrats to reconsider and staged a second filibuster vote. It was a course of action that had no prospect of success and it perfectly fulfilled the prospect. One did not have to resort to the cliched “definition of insanity” or check a horoscope figure that the second time around would be no lovelier than the first. And it wasn’t.

What were they thinking? Politico reported on Majority Leader McConnell’s thinking: “McConnell believes by hammering home the point again on Tuesday he is making the partisan contrast between the two parties even brighter for voters in 2016. ‘Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for it. My view is it’s one of those rare and defining issues with a significant shelf life and will be a big issue in next year’s campaign,’ McConnell said.”

Senator Cornyn is the Republican whip. He explained to National Journal: “I think accountability is really important. I know they’re trying to say that it’s all over with, there’s nothing to see here, move on down the road, but this is the most serious national security vote we will have had at least since 2002 on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, maybe even more [serious] since it involves nuclear weapons and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. So this is very important. And the idea that they can just brush this under the rug and move on from here—I think they underestimate the consequences of this both from a national security perspective and a political perspective of them owning this whole issue on a partisan basis.”

I think this is for losers. It is demoralizing. It represents sheer futility. It is not only for losers, it aggravates the loss.

As if to emphasize the point, Republican leadership is moving on to another vote to take place perhaps as early tomorrow as part of the losers’ package: “Rather than give up, Mr. McConnell announced plans to force a vote on an amendment that would bar President Obama from lifting economic sanctions against Iran unless Tehran released American prisoners and recognized Israel as a state.” Because it’s all about Israel?

I asked Senator McConnell’s office for an explanation. They declined to provide one on the record.


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