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 AyotteMcConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Republicans blast latest Gitmo transfer Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote 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 McCainMarines reignite debate on women in combat Gun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Report: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton 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 GrahamGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns 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 McConnellMcConnell: Trump needs to 'catch up fast' on fundraising McConnell dodges on whether Trump is qualified to be president Sunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval 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.