Earlier this week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was prepared to consider with wide, bi-partisan support the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act to expand bilateral cooperation in a multitude of national security areas. Prior to voting on the bill, Democratic Committee Chairman Robert Menendez pulled the bill from the committee’s agenda, despite the fact that it would in all likelihood have passed overwhelmingly.
It seems that the Committee’s ranking minority member, Republican Senator Bob Corker was preparing an amendment to the bill which would have required the President to submit Congress any agreement reached this summer between the P5 + 1 and Iran within three days of its signing. Corker wanted Congress to have a right to vote its disapproval—should that be its inclination. While Congress could not block the agreement and already, always has the right to take this type of action, Corker sought through his amendment to achieve a political goal.
By putting it into a pending, strong, pro-Israel bill Corker was trying to affect how the Administration might want to conduct its negotiations with Iran; given the fact that a possible embarrassing vote might still be forthcoming from Congress if it is dissatisfied with the agreement made with Iran. (In other words, should Israel believe that the agreement may not be strong enough to prevent Israel from being attacked by Iran?)
Furthermore, Corker and his supporter know that the only reason to include such an amendment in a substantive bill involving the U.S.-Israel relationship would be to challenge the Democratic members to vote to encumber their President before he has even completed negotiations with Iran. In other words, the question will be whether these members support stronger pressure on the President or support trusting the President to negotiate in the best interests of both the U.S. and Israel? All of this was being done, although Corker knows that the Senate always has the right to proceed with voicing its dissatisfaction with any Administration policy decision.
Placing the amendment now before the Committee forced its Democratic members to choose between a clean bill of support for the U.S.-Israel partnership without an amendment, or voting for or against the Corker amendment and incurring the disapproval of AIPAC and others in the pro-Israel community who supported inclusion of the amendment. Thus, Menendez choose to withhold the bill from committee consideration; at least at this time.
It would seem that AIPAC and the pro-Israel supporters got caught in the ugly partisanship fight in Congress at the expense of trying to pass the bill. If they truly wanted a vote on a Corker type resolution, they might well have sought to support a free standing resolution on the matter. This strategy could of course be blocked by Menendez as well, although there could be legislative maneuvers to circumvent this. At least the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act would have been enacted.