AIPAC breaks with GOP on Iran sanctions

America's main pro-Israel lobby came out against an immediate vote on Iran sanctions Thursday, just hours after 42 Republican senators demanded a vote.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) issued its statement after the bill's author, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), took to the Senate floor and obliquely criticized the GOP push. 

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“We agree with the Chairman that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support,” AIPAC said in an emailed statement, “and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure.” 

An AIPAC official confirmed the email's validity and said the organization has never pushed for an immediate vote.

“We have not and are not calling for [an] immediate vote,” the official told The Hill.

Menendez did not directly call for a delay in his floor speech, but warned against making his bill, which was co-sponsored by 43 Republicans and 16 Democrats, a “partisan political issue.” 

His speech came hours after all but one of the Republican co-sponsors wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) demanding that he schedule a vote before the end of next week. None of the Democrats on the bill are calling for an immediate vote amid heavy pressure from President Obama, who argues that passing it now would doom nuclear talks.

“I have long thought of this as a bipartisan national security issue — not a partisan political issue,” Menendez said. “And, at the end of the day, a national security issue that we must approach in a spirit of bipartisanship and unity, which has been the spirit for which we have worked together on this matter. 

“I hope that we will not find ourselves in a partisan process trying to force a vote on a national security matter before its appropriate time.”

Here's the full AIPAC statement:

AIPAC commends Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) for his strong and eloquent statement on the Senate floor today outlining the threat of Iran's nuclear program and the imperative of dismantling it.  We appreciate his commitment to ensure that any agreement with Iran “is verifiable, effective, and prevents them from ever developing even one nuclear weapon.” 

We applaud Senator Menendez’s determined leadership on this issue and his authorship with Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. We agree with the Chairman that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure.  We remain committed to working with the Administration and the bipartisan leadership in Congress to ensure that the Iran nuclear program is dismantled.

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