WASHINGTON (JTA) — Forty-two Republican senators urged the Democratic-led Senate’s majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, to bring to a vote a bill on new Iran sanctions.
“It’s time for the elected representatives of the American people to have a say in the future of Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” said the Feb. 4 letter first revealed by the Daily Beast and initiated by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a lead sponsor of the bill. “It’s time to vote.”
Reid (D-Nev.) has resisted bringing the bill to the floor. Proponents of the new sanctions say they would strengthen the West’s hand in Iran negotiations, adding that without new sanctions, the momentum in the talks between Iran and the major powers, including the United States, is moving in Iran’s favor.
“I stand with the majority of Americans who want Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure dismantled before economic sanctions are lifted,” Kirk said in a statement sent to JTA. “The American people deserve a vote on the bipartisan Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act.”
Absent from the letter’s signatories are Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the two Republican senators out of 45 in the caucus who are not sponsors of the bill: Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Paul and Flake are also on the Foreign Relations Committee.
According to the Daily Beast, Republicans may attempt to attach the bill to must-pass legislation as an amendment and could refuse cooperation on other bills in order to force Reid to call a vote.
President Obama has said he would veto any new sanctions, which he says could scuttle talks aimed at keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Democratic support for the new bill, introduced in December, has waned considerably.
A number of top Democrats, including several who originally sponsored the bill, now say they do not want it to advance while talks are underway.
A sizable portion of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives is also now opposed to new sanctions, although the caucus overwhelmingly approved a similar bill last summer, months before the talks with Iran were launched.
The Senate bill has 59 co-sponsors, eight short of the 67 it would need to override an Obama veto.