Warner, Santorum debate merits of Iran measure

An Iran sanctions bill that has stalled for over a year was introduced as an amendment to the defense authorization bill yesterday.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), would levy sanctions against companies investing in Iranian energy development, curbing funds that could be used towards the creation of a nuclear weapon.

A floor debate emerged when Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.), sponsor of the authorization bill, asserted that the timing of the amendment could interfere with the "dramatic developments" of recent multi-lateral negotiations with Iran. 

Santorum replied that such developments were "modest" and that the "Iranians are trying to buy time" with the negotiations.

The debate ended with Santorum suspending a request for a vote until an agreement is reached on the amendment.

Santorum introduced the legislation, which has 61 co-sponsors, in February of 2005, but has been Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) - who opposes unilateral sanctions - has not marked up the bill.

The Bush administration has raised major concerns about the Santorum bill. Earlier this year, the House overwhelmingly passed a companion measure.