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McConnell: GOP Senate would vote on Iran sanctions bill

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accompanied by his wife Elaine Chao, talk to reporters while attending a Veterans Day Parade on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, in Madisonville, Kentucky. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)

MADISONVILLE, Ky. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is hopeful that Republicans, who are predicted to take control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, might influence President Obama to change course on foreign policy.

Specifically, McConnell said a Republican Senate would vote on legislation to toughen sanctions on Iran that has been stalled by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at the request of the Obama administration, which is in the process of negotiating a deal with Iran to limit the Islamic country’s nuclear weapons program. Many Democrats support the legislation as a means to push Iran to accept major concessions in the talks.

“What we ought to do, if we can’t get an acceptable agreement with the Iranians, is tighten the sanctions,” McConnell told reporters Sunday while campaigning in Western Kentucky. “In fact, we had a bill in the Senate to do that which the current majority leader wouldn’t allow a vote on. ... That’s the kind of thing a new Senate would be voting on.”

Foreign policy tends to be the one arena where presidents feel most free to pursue their agenda independent of Congress’ wishes. But McConnell said he would like to a see newly minted GOP Senate majority, should his party win control of the chamber, push Obama in a different direction.

“I think the president has been diminishing the influence of our country overseas,” McConnell said, in response to a BBC reporter who asked the senator how a GOP Senate might affect Obama’s foreign policy.

“A lot of foreign reporters have been coming down here, like yourself, wondering whether America is comfortable with America in decline,” McConnell continued. “Hopefully, if the people of this country choose a new majority, it will encourage the president to stop the retreat, basically. That’s what we seem to have been doing over the last few years.

McConnell said the Obama administration erred by not leaving a residual military force in Iraq to secure the gains made by the U.S. military there during the war, and by not arming the Syrian rebels earlier, when doing so might have turned the tide of the civil war in Syria and helped prevent the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

McConnell, headed for a solid victory Tuesday over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes — according to recent public opinion polls — now awaits the results of races in other Senate battlegrounds to see if he will take over as the majority leader when the new Congress is seated in January. The Republicans must flip six Democratic-held seats to win Senate control.