WASHINGTON (JTA) — The senators who drafted Iran sanctions legislation opposed by President Barack Obama have yet to formally launch the bill.
A draft version of the bill appeared Jan. 16 on the website of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the lead GOP author of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2014, but Senate staffers tracking the bill’s progress told JTA that no date had yet been set for its formal introduction to Congress.
The Senate Banking Committee has on its calendar a Jan. 22 “mark-up,” a hearing where the committee would decide on whether to refer the bill to the full Senate, but the Senate staffers told JTA that the mark-up date was tentative.
Obama last week sparred with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the lead Democratic author of the bill, at a private meeting in Baltimore with Democratic senators, The New York Times reported.
Obama urged senators at the meeting not to pursue sanctions, saying they could jeopardize nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers aimed at trading sanctions relief for guarantees Iran will not advance toward a nuclear weapon.
In his remarks, the president said he understood senators were being pressured by donors, the Times said, and Menendez took offense, noting that his activism toward keeping Iran nuclear free dated back decades.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee will back the bill, a source close to the lobby told JTA.
On Friday, Obama at a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron again said new sanctions would harm the talks.
“Additional sanctions on Iran at this time would undermine that international unity and set back our chances for a diplomatic solution,” he said.
The bill, which expands existing sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, would kick in once the June 30 deadline for negotiations had passed, unless there is a deal or the major powers and Iran agree to another extension of the terms governing the talks. There have been two such extensions.
Under the bill, any deal or extension is subject to congressional review.