GOP blocks Iran sanctions


Republicans blocked Iran sanctions legislation in the Senate.

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) exercised his prerogative Thursday to object to consideration of legislation that had passed overwhelmingly last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill consolidates two earlier bills that had languished in the Senate because of tactical obstructions imposed by Republicans: one targets Iran’s banking system, bans U.S. dealings with entities that deal with Iran’s energy sector, and closes loopholes that allow U.S. companies to deal with Iran through foreign subsidiaries; the other facilitates divestment from Iran by naming companies that deal with the Islamic Republic and by protecting entities that divest from lawsuits.

The White House opposes the legislation in part because it encroaches on the president’s foreign policy prerogatives, but Senate Republicans – who have voiced support for such legislation – have yet to make clear why they are blocking it. Senate Democrats accuse them of not wanting to hand a legislative victory to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) who is running for president and who authored the divestment language.

Allard said he objected because “the Banking Committee is working on new language,” even though the new legislation is sponsored by that committee’s chairman, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and its ranking member, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The bill is unlikely to again be considered in the Senate before it adjourns; the body will probably wrap up its session by this weekend.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, excoriated Republicans for opposing the bill.

“I want the record to reflect that this very important legislation upholds sanctions with respect to Iran,. Provides for the divestment of assets in Iran by state and local governments and other entities and to identify locations of concern with respect to transshipment, or diversion of certain sensitive items to Iran,” Reid said after Allard’s objection.  “We’ve tried to get this done in this body, there’s been objection by the Republicans – that’s unfortunate.”

The legislation, strongly supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is aimed at isolating Iran until it suspends its suspected nuclear program.

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