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Iran sanctions bill passes Senate panel

Members of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran if a comprehensive agreement to roll back its nuclear program is not reached by June 30.

The bill, co-authored by 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 MenendezRobert MenendezThe right person for State Department is Rudy Giuliani Warren, Menendez question shakeup at Wells Fargo Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal MORE (D-N.J.), passed in the committee by an 18-4 vote.

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All 12 Republicans on the committee voted for the bill, as did six Democrats.

The Democrats that voted for the bill included Sens. Menendez, Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerSenate Dems hold out on spending deal, risking shutdown Dems see ’18 upside in ObamaCare repeal Confirm Gary Richard Brown for the Eastern District of New York MORE (D-N.Y.), Jon TesterJon TesterWhat gun groups want from Trump Dem senator to introduce 'drain the swamp' bill Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks MORE (D-Mont.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampWhat gun groups want from Trump Senate passes stopgap funding bill, averting shutdown Senate advances funding measure, avoiding shutdown MORE (D-N.D.), and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Energy: Fight over miners' benefits risks shutdown | Flint aid crosses finish line in House House approves funding bill, but fate in Senate unclear Messer eyes challenging Donnelly for Indiana Senate seat MORE (D-Ind.).

Schumer called the bill "a good step forward."

"If they don't come to a tough strong agreement...there will be further sanctions and further actions," he said.

Democrats who voted against included Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownSenate passes stopgap funding bill, averting shutdown Senate advances funding measure, avoiding shutdown Stopgap funding bill poised to pass Senate before midnight deadline MORE (D-Ohio), the committee’s ranking member, Jack ReedJack ReedBudowsky: Did Putin elect Trump? This Week in Cybersecurity: Dems press for information on Russian hacks A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy: Fight over miners' benefits risks shutdown | Flint aid crosses finish line in House Senate sends annual defense bill to Obama's desk Dem senator: Trump’s EPA pick is ‘corruption’ MORE (D-Ore.), and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats: Where the hell are You? Dodd-Frank ripe for reform, not repeal Senate Dems offer bill to curb tax break for Trump nominees MORE (D-Mass.).

The bill, which is softer than one proposed last year by Kirk and Menendez, would allow the president to waive sanctions indefinitely for 30 days at a time.

Last year’s bill garnered 17 Democratic co-sponsors, but Democratic support for the current bill was not clear after President Obama threatened during his State of the Union address to veto the bill. The administration argues any sanctions legislation passed before June 30 would derail the talks by empowering hardliners in Iran who oppose a deal, and break the cohesion among negotiators from the U.S. and its allies.

Menendez, however, kept together a coalition of 10 Democrats who support the bill, promising the White House not to support a vote on the bill before March 24, by when negotiators agreed to reach a framework agreement.

Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate passes dozens of bills on way out of town Ukrainians made their choice for freedom, but now need US help Week ahead in defense: Anticipation builds for State pick; Pentagon chief's last trip abroad MORE (R-Tenn.) said that promise would effectively delay a vote on the Senate floor of the vote until then.

"All of us understand it's not going to be voted on before March 24," he said.

Brown urged lawmakers to wait until June 30 the negotiators’ deadline for an agreement.

"Congress should have the collective patience to wait until the end of June to see whether our negotiators can resolve the nuclear issue with Iran through diplomacy," Brown said.

"Once that is determined, Congress and the president will unquestionably join hands in applying greater pressure," he added.

The passage of the bill in committee, however, is a sign that Democrats are running out of patience.

With 54 Republicans in the Senate, Democratic support of the bill is necessary to reach a veto-proof majority of 67 votes.

The committee also passed several amendments during the mark-up session.

An amendment by Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) would require the Treasury Department to submit an assessment on economic sanctions relief five days after a deal is reached.

Another amendment, from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), would require Congress to vote on any final deal reached.

The panel also approved two amendments from Sen. David VitterDavid VitterTrump questions merits of early voting WATCH LIVE: Trump speaks at GOP rally in La. Poll: Republican holds 14-point lead in Louisiana Senate runoff MORE (R-La.) that insert into the bill a statement of Israel's right to defend itself and strengthen verification of Iran's cooperation with any deal.

The committee voted down two amendments by a new member, Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonArk., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test Overnight Defense: Debate over Mattis heats up | White House releases military force rules Senate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules MORE (R-Ark.), that would have had all proposed sanctions kick in after July 6 -- instead of in graduated steps after July 6 -- and would have allowed the president to waive the start of the sanctions by 30 days only once instead of indefinitely.

--This report was updated at 12:40 p.m.