Senate Dems hesitate on Iran vote

Facing heavy pressure from President Obama, Senate Democrats on Tuesday signaled they have reservations about moving forward with Iran sanctions legislation.

Some senators who had previously backed a sanctions bill treaded carefully when asked whether they support holding a vote on legislation before the Iran talks wrap up in June.

"Well let's wait and see when there's a bill. There's no bill yet," said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerRepair is the only “R” word that can solve our healthcare woes OPINION | How Democrats stole the nation's lower federal courts OPINION | Hey Dems, Russia won't define 2018, so why not fix your party's problems instead? MORE (D-N.Y.). "Let's wait and see how the whole thing plays out."

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"There's a question and a debate about timing, and that's something we should continue to discuss," said Sen. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (D-Penn.). 

"I don't have a sense that there's anything that will happen in the near term," Casey added.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Bob MenendezRobert MenendezBipartisan group, Netflix actress back bill for American Latino Museum The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations MORE (D-N.J.) and Mark KirkMark KirkMcConnell: Senate to try to repeal ObamaCare next week GOP senator: Not 'appropriate' to repeal ObamaCare without replacement GOP's repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate MORE (R-Ill.), would sanction Iran if the country walks away from the negotiations over its nuclear program or violates the terms of any deal. 

The Senate banking committee had scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to debate and vote on sanctions, but postponed the session until next week, with outside opponents of the bill citing a lack of bipartisan support.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the panel’s chairman, said the hearings were "rescheduled to give senators more time." 

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownGOP Senate candidate attacks Anti-Defamation League for ‘witchhunt' on far right Senate Banking leaders introduce flood insurance bill Major progressive group endorses Martha McSally challenger MORE (Ohio), opposes passing a sanctions bill ahead of the June 30 deadline.

"There's not a rush on this. I mean these negotiations are going forward, I don't want to disrupt the negotiations. ... Our long-term allies are saying 'Don't do this.' So I don't know what the hurry is except for Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellParliamentarian deals setback to GOP repeal bill OPINION | How Democrats stole the nation's lower federal courts Flight restrictions signal possible August vacation for Trump MORE's politics," Brown said. 

Brown said he wants to see what administration officials have to say at a classified briefing on Iran next week.

"I want to hear the briefings before I commit for sure on Menendez-Kirk," he said. 

The White House is pushing Senate Democrats to withhold their support, arguing passage has the potential to end the chances for reaching a historic diplomatic accord with Iran.

Obama last week threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, and spoke with Senate Democrats about the issue behind closed doors.

Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinSunday shows preview: Scaramucci makes TV debut as new communication chief Oil concerns hold up Russia sanctions push Compounds’ fate raised after Trump-Putin talk MORE (D-Md.), who was a co-sponsor on a sanctions bill in the last Congress, said Democrats are debating when new sanctions legislation should be voted on. 

"The administration has a point. I think we should listen to what they have to say, and hopefully we can reach some agreement on when's the best timing for its consideration," he said. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChris CoonsDemocrats go in for the kill on ObamaCare repeal Funeral for the filibuster: GOP will likely lay Senate tool to rest Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief MORE (D-Del.) said he was "actively considering" whether to support holding a vote ahead of the June 30 deadline.

Without the support of at least 13 Democrats, the sanction bill will not reach a veto-proof majority of 67 votes. Last year, 17 Democrats, including Menendez, cosponsored the bill, but five of them lost reelection in November. 

Menendez isn’t backing down, and told The Hill he would introduce his bill when he's "ready." 

Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalTrump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Three Dem senators call for 'immediate review' of Kushner's security clearance MORE (D-Conn.) said he would discuss the Iran bill with Menendez and other colleagues on Tuesday and throughout the week. 

"I think that the principles and convictions incorporated in the bill are significant and they deserve a hearing. The question of timing is one we need to discuss," he said.  

Other Democrats played down dissension in the caucus, saying there is broad agreement that if no deal is reached, Iran should pay the price.

"We all want the same thing. We want a non-nuclear Iran, and we prefer to get there diplomatically rather than by any other outcome. So this is really a question of strategy rather than end-goal," said Sen. Tim KaineTim Kaine40 million fewer people expected to vote in 2018, study finds Al Gore warns Democrats about accusing Trump of treason Administration briefs Senate on progress against ISIS MORE (D-Va.). 

Kaine, who did not support the previous Menendez-Kirk bill, said he is looking at the new version because it is "different from the previous one." 

Still, the senators said he fears a new sanctions bill could shift the focus away from Iran's behavior. 

"And I don't want to do anything that makes people question whether we are negotiating fairly," he said.