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 KirkDuckworth settles retaliation lawsuit The Trail 2016: Berning embers Senate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game MORE (R-Ill.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance Kaine, Murphy push extension of Iran sanctions 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 SchumerGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA This week: Senate showdown over gun control Dems push vulnerable GOP senators on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.), Jon TesterJon TesterBernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment MORE (D-Mont.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal MORE (D-N.D.), and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyPost Orlando, hawks make a power play Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance 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 Dem won't rule out blocking Puerto Rico debt relief Dodd and Frank: Judge was wrong in Dodd-Frank ruling Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate MORE (D-Ohio), the committee’s ranking member, Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Biden hits Trump on national security | Dems raise pressure over refugees | Graham vows fight over spending caps Graham: Opponents of lifting military spending caps are 'a-holes' Senate unlikely to vote on military cyber measure MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report Key Sanders ally: Time to get behind Clinton Dem Senate campaign chair endorses Clinton MORE (D-Ore.), and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKaine: Nobody should ever say they're ready to be president Al Franken says he would be Clinton's vice president if asked Why Elizabeth Warren shouldn't be Clinton's VP pick 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 CorkerGOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Trump’s campaign shows hints of change 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 VitterFed chairwoman blasts Trump on debt Senate campaign posts private conversation on Facebook Rand Paul endorses in La. Senate race 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 CottonGOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Sessions warns of 'radical' Clinton immigration policy The Trail 2016: Berning embers 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.