By Jordain Carney - 01/21/16 12:59 PM EST
Senate GOP threatens new Iran sanctions
Senate Republicans are pledging to introduce new sanctions against Iran if the Obama administration doesn't take a tougher stance against the country.
"If the administration will not impose tougher sanctions ... [then] we're going to be introducing sanctions legislation that I'm working on to impose tough new sanctions on Iran," Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenate rivals gear up for debates WATCH LIVE: Warren campaigns for Clinton in NH Green group endorses in key Senate races MORE (R-N.H.) told reporters on Thursday.
She added that the sanctions legislation would focus on Iran's ballistic missile program and would "hold Iran accountable for its support for terrorism."
The comments come days after the Obama administration announced new sanctions against nearly a dozen individuals and companies tied to the missile program. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the sanctions were "illegal."
However, Ayotte, who faces a tough reelection race this year, dismissed the administration's move as "tepid," "weak" and "just pathetic."
Democrats and Republicans had urged the president to hold Iran accountable for months for a pair of ballistic missile tests late last year, including by introducing new sanctions.
A dozen Senate Republicans have also signed onto a separate proposal from Ayotte to block Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran because of the missile tests.
The forthcoming legislation is the latest scuffle over Iran since Congress failed to block the nuclear agreement last year.
While Ayotte said that she hopes the administration will impose tougher sanctions, Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenate rivals gear up for debates McCain opponent releases new ad hitting his record Why is the election so close? Experts say it's all in your head MORE (R-Ariz.) predicted that "they won't do a damn thing and we will have to try to act as a Congress."
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senators buck spending bill over Export-Import Bank Pelosi pans latest GOP stopgap spending offer MORE (R-S.C.) said that Ayotte's legislation would give Democrats a chance to go "on the record" about Iran's missile program.
"Every member of the Senate is going to have the opportunity to tell their constituents exactly what they think about the test firing of these missiles by the Iranians," he added.
Any effort to get a vote on Iran legislation in the Senate could face an uphill battle.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump slams Obama for ‘shameful’ 9/11 bill veto GOP chairman lobbies against overriding Obama on 9/11 bill Black Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) said last year that he wouldn't schedule floor time for a bill unless it had the 67 votes necessary to overcome a presidential veto.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) argued that the Senate should vote regardless of whether Democrats are on board.
Ayotte, for her part, suggested that she was confident that she would be able to get the support of enough Democrats to win passage of the legislation, saying that "sixty-seven votes should not be a problem when we look at what [Iran's] behavior is."
House lawmakers have already introduced legislation that would make it easier to sanction Iran over acts of terror, human rights abuses or ballistic missile violations.