Blumenthal: No vote needed yet on Iran sanctions bill

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of the 16 Democratic backers of a new Iran sanctions bill, said he did not support a vote on the bill, if negotiations with Iran are making progress.

“Well I think the Iran sanctions bill is meant to strengthen the president, not in any way impede the ongoing negotiations, which should and hopefully will be successful,” Blumenthal told reporters Tuesday. “So as long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote.”

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President Obama has urged Congress to hold off on a vote on new sanctions legislation, while Iran and the six world powers try to strike a permanent nuclear deal in the next six months.

He has threatened to veto any sanctions legislation, warning it would kill the negotiations.

If Democrats like Blumenthal, who support the bill, say it doesn’t need to come to a vote yet, that could give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) more cover to wait on a vote.

Fifty-nine senators, including Blumenthal, have signed onto the bill from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) that would enact new sanctions should Iran walk away from the negotiations.

The measure has nearly enough support to break a filibuster, but there is no indication yet that Reid will bring the bill up for a vote.

The legislation has the support of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, while 10 Democratic committee chairmen have come out against any vote on new sanctions legislation while negotiations are ongoing.

Several Democrats who hadn’t yet commented on the Menendez-Kirk bill said Tuesday they wouldn’t back it unless negotiations falter.

“I’m very willing to vote for additional sanctions if negotiations falter, but right now, we’re in the midst of the first serious discussions with them for a very long time about ending their quest for nuclear weapons, and I think we need to give the diplomatic opportunity a chance,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

“The secretary of State has said that this will hurt him in the negotiations, and I believe the secretary of State,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), explaining his opposition to the sanctions bill.