McConnell to CNN on Iran accord: 'It's an agreement between Barack Obama and the Iranian regime'
McConnell: 'We will not' shut down the government
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Friday that the battle over the Iran nuclear deal may now have to wait until the next president takes office, even as he vowed to tee up another vote on the issue to show that a bipartisan majority in Congress disdains the accord.
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN, the Kentucky Republican said that he would hold another vote to reject the Iran nuclear agreement next week to send a message to the White House that lawmakers in both parties oppose the nuclear agreement. Four Democrats joined every Senate Republican in opposing the Iran deal on Thursday, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a filibuster mounted by other Democrats.
If the votes don’t change next week, McConnell said that “this vote stands” and will now be “a defining issue” in the 2016 elections.
“It’s an agreement between Barack Obama and the Iranian regime,” McConnell said. “And it will be reviewed again in a year and a half from now. It doesn’t have the force of law that a treaty would’ve had. So his deal is a unilateral deal with Iran is something that he can try to implement over the next year and a half. And if the next president wants to take a look at it, (he or she) is free to do it.”
READ: How the White House kept Democrats from killing the Iran deal
While McConnell added that “it would be great for the House to take him to court” on the matter, as some conservatives are demanding, he added: “I’m a little skeptical that some judge is going to referee this dispute between the administration and us.”
McConnell’s comments come as Republican leaders in Congress are struggling to handle a number of hot-button issues, namely how to fund the government at month’s end and lift the national debt ceiling. He suggested that the October fight over the debt ceiling would be time for a major fiscal negotiation between himself, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.
McConnell promised there would be no government shutdown at the end of September, arguing that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s insistence that a must-pass funding bill should prohibit taxpayer dollars from flowing to Planned Parenthood won’t fly. Democrats have vowed to block such a plan in the Senate.
“It wouldn’t produce the result that Sen. Cruz and I would both like to produce,” McConnell said. “So therefore, it would be an exercise in futility.”
“You could shut down the government and that will not defund Planned Parenthood,” McConnell added. “So that is a strategy that will not lead to a result that I would like. Shutting down the government is something the American people overwhelmingly oppose, and we will not be doing that.”
READ: McConnell aims to split abortion from shutdown debate
In the interview, McConnell refused to get roped into presidential politics, even as he reiterated his support for Sen. Rand Paul, a fellow Kentuckian. He did, however, acknowledge that Donald Trump gave money to his past re-election campaign.
“He supported – contributed – to my campaign last year,” McConnell said with a smirk. “I appreciate it.”
Sitting in the Strom Thurmond room of the Capitol, McConnell blamed the White House for contributing to the chaos in Syria that has prompted a growing refugee crisis in Europe.
“I think we have an obligation to take some number of refugees,” McConnell said, refusing to specify an amount. “We’ve done that in these situations in the past. It is important to remember why this is all happening, because the President is falling behind, leading from behind. The Middle East is in turmoil. And our policy of talking to our enemies and leaving our friends behind has contributed to all of this meltdown.”
Even as he was criticizing the President’s foreign policy, he refused to criticize the administration for its handling of its controversial drone program in light of the accidental killing of two hostages in January, including American doctor Warren Weinstein.
“Well you know, mistakes are made in warfare,” McConnell said. “The drone is another weapon. It’s used obviously to try and minimize collateral damage. Americans like minimizing collateral damage. I think it’s a part of our toolbox that we should use against terrorists. I think there is plenty of oversight and we are always going to look when mistakes are made. I think it’s appropriate for Congress to take a look at it.”
McConnell, 73, who won re-election for a sixth term last year, is entering a critical moment of his nine-month tenure as majority leader. He has to iron out differences with the House on highway funding, his party is divided over the controversial Export-Import Bank, and government funding continues to be a major source of concern.
But even if Congress passes a short-term stop-gap measure this month to keep the government afloat until the winter, he will have to find a bipartisan accord for a longer-term spending bill – and raise the national debt ceiling. McConnell said the White House would need to negotiate a deal with GOP leaders to avoid a fiscal mess.
“We are going to have to have a negotiation about how much we are going to spend in discretionary accounts of the government this year. And all of that will commence sometime after this fiscal year,” McConnell said on the debt ceiling. “I think the Speaker and myself and the White House are going to have to discuss how to resolve our differences.”