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Menendez, Kirk introduce new Iran sanctions bill

Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkJuan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate MORE (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday evening unveiled their bill to impose new sanctions on Iran if international negotiators fail to reach a deal by June 30 on Tehran's nuclear program.

Fourteen other senators co-sponsored the the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015  — eight Republicans and six Democrats: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). 

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Additional co-sponsors will be added this week, Menendez's office said. If all 54 Republicans vote for the bill, they would need at least 13 Democrats to override the president's veto threat. The administration has threatened to veto any Iran sanctions bill, warning that such legislation could derail the delicate talks.

On Tuesday, though, a block of Democrats agreed to give the administration more time to conduct negotiations. 

Menendez and nine other Democrats signed a letter vowing to withhold support for sanctions legislation until March 24 if Republicans brought it to a floor vote. The move delayed a clash with the White House and allowed Senate Democrats to give the president time while maintaining support for Iran sanctions.

The negotiations have a self-imposed June 30 deadline.

The Kirk-Menendez bill is scheduled to receive a vote in the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, where it is expected to pass. The panel has 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including bill co-sponsors Menendez, Schumer and Donnelly. 

Without the support of Democrats, the measure will be unable to pass the Senate with a veto-proof majority.

The bill allows the president to continuously waive sanctions for a 30 days at a time, if a deal is near.

It also requires the administration to formally submit the text of any new nuclear agreement or extension of talks to Congress within five days.

Lawmakers would get 30 days to review any agreement before the president can waive, defer or suspend sanctions. 

The president could only waive sanctions after preparing a report and certifying that doing so is in the vital national security interest of the U.S., or that a waiver would make a long-term comprehensive deal with Iran more likely. 

The bill would restore sanctions that were lifted during the talks, as well impose new tighter restrictions on Iran's petroleum industry, financial transactions and on a host of other economic sectors.

It would also impose new sanctions on senior Iranian officials, their family members and other individuals accused of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, sponsoring terrorism or other illicit activities.