Dem. US Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions

Dem. US Senators Oppose New Iran SanctionsDem. US Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions

Democratic US senators introduced a resolution opposing more sanctions on Iran unless nuclear talks fail or Tehran breaks an agreement, countering a push for more sanctions backed by Republicans that US President Barack Obama has pledged to veto.  

"For those who agree that the sanctions bill in the Banking Committee is detrimental, this resolution provides an option in support of diplomacy," Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, a leading co-sponsor of the resolution with Senator Chris Murphy, said in a statement on Monday.

Backing the Obama administration, she said enacting new sanctions during the negotiations would "gravely undermine" efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Tehran, Reuters reported. The Senate Banking Committee is due to vote later this week on legislation being developed by Republican Senator Mark Kirk and Democrat Robert Menendez that would toughen sanctions on Iran if there is no nuclear agreement before the end of June.

The six major powers - the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - have given themselves until the end of June to produce a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran and end a long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

Obama pledged in his State of the Union address on January 20 to veto the sanctions measure, which has strong support among many Republicans, who contend Obama is so eager to reach an important agreement with Iran that he is giving up too much in the talks.

The dispute contributed to a diplomatic flap. US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, announced the day after Obama's address that he had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran, without consulting the Obama administration or congressional Democrats.

The new resolution's other co-sponsors include Democratic Senators Tom Carper, Dick Durbin, Al Franken, Martin Heinrich, Patrick Leahy, Jeff Merkley, John Tester and Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

  Uphill Battle

Meanwhile, Politico reported that the push to impose new economic sanctions on Iran is facing an increasingly uphill battle toward a veto-proof majority.  

The report said Kirk picked up a prominent supporter on Monday — No. 3 Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer — for a bill that would ratchet up sanctions if diplomatic talks on Tehran's nuclear program fall through.

But rounding up other Democrats may be harder and Schumer's support is contingent, sources said, on other Democrats coming on board with him. Schumer said his party is still discussing the best timing for a vote on an Iran bill, after President Obama forcefully warned last week that he will veto any sanctions legislation that lands on his desk during nuclear talks.

"I intend to co-sponsor it," the New York Democrat said Monday night. "But we're having a meeting among the Democrats and figuring out the best strategy."

Kirk said last week that he intended to release a bipartisan list of co-sponsors for his legislation as early as Monday night. But on Monday evening, Democrats were still being cagey about whether they will publicly defy the president.

"We're at the beginning of the process," said Democratic Senator Bob Casey, a co-sponsor of sanctions legislation last year. "I've looked at it. We'll keep looking at it."

Asked if his name will be on the bill's co-sponsor list this time, Casey replied, "We don't know yet."

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, another previous backer of sanctions, is not expected to sign onto Kirk's bill, according to a source familiar with the measure. Menendez also remains a wild card. He told New Jersey's Star-Ledger he might put off supporting the legislation, which in 2013 was known informally around the Hill as "Kirk-Menendez."

The Senate Banking Committee is set to approve Kirk's bill on Thursday. But Kirk has been looking for seven Democrats to join him and six Republicans in defiance of the president's Iran negotiations, hoping to send a bipartisan message to Obama rather than a party-line vote that has no chance of overcoming a veto.

For Kirk, finding Republican supporters has not been a problem — even among those who support a separate approach proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker that would require Congress to approve or reject any deal with Iran.

"I'm definitely on it," Senator Lindsey Graham said of Kirk's bill.

Politico also said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to give both measures a vote on the Senate floor in the near future, perhaps as early as February.