Iran sanctions bill sails through Senate Banking Committee

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The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted 18-4 in favor of the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act of 2015 (S. 269), after a brief markup session this morning in which several amendments to the original text were added.

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), above, and Mark Kirk, (R-Ill.), introduced a bill calling for more sanctions on Iran in December. The Obama administration has rallied forces in Congress to oppose further sanctions on Iran at this time. File photo
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), above, and Mark Kirk, (R-Ill.), co-authored a bill calling for more sanctions on Iran if a final deal in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations is not reached. The Obama administration has rallied forces in Congress to oppose further sanctions on Iran at this time. File photo

The bill, known as the Kirk-Menendez bill, threatens the Iranian regime with sanctions if a final deal in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations is not achieved by the agreed upon June 30 deadline.


It is now up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to determine when to schedule a vote on the bill now that it has left the committee. Although McConnell can schedule it at any time, hawkish Republican senators are hoping he does this sooner than later, while Democrats and other Republicans wish to give the Obama’s administration some space to negotiate and have called to hold off voting on the bill until after March 24 – a date by which the administration says it will know the outline of a final deal.

During the approximately hour-long hearing, the members voted on five amendments.

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Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Penn.) amendment to include language in the bill requiring a congressional vote to approve a final deal passed 14-8.

“Congress votes on treaties and trade agreements, including agreements that allow for the exchange of peaceful nuclear technology and material between the United States and other countries, such as Japan and India,” said Sen. Toomey, while introducing his amendment. “A final deal with Iran about its nuclear program is certainly no less important, and it deserves a public debate in Congress along with a vote.”


Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) presented two amendments, one of which included language that existed in the previous version of the bill but was omitted this year, which declares that the state of Israel has a right to defend itself and that Congress would support Israel if it chooses to conduct a pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities unilaterally. Vitter’s other amendment added language to include Treasury Department assessments of the effects and inconsistencies resulting from current and future Iran economic sanctions. Both of amendments passed the committee unanimously.

The Kirk-Menendez bill was introduced for the first time on the floor of the Senate Tuesday night with an original list of 16 bipartisan co-sponsors which include the majority leader, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also introduced two amendments in an effort to make the bill more hawkish – one to apply the sanctions outlined in the bill at the same time on July 6, rather than the current bill’s incremental, monthly sanctions; and another amendment limiting how many currently unlimited 30-day extensions the president could ask for to only one time. Both of Cotton’s amendments were defeated by 10-12 margins as some members, including a few Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), expressed their concerns that Cotton’s amendments would make a bipartisan majority harder to attain.

[email protected]  @dmitriyshapiro

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