Top Dems divided on more Iran sanctions

Ten Democratic Senate committee chairmen wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.) late Wednesday urging him not to allow a vote on a bill that would impose tougher sanctions against Iran.

“At this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail,” they wrote in the letter, obtained by The Hill.

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The letter is signed by Banking Committee Chairman Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE (S.D.), Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinHuman rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch Feinstein sees slipping support among California voters: poll Schumer a no on Gorsuch, will urge Dems to oppose MORE (Calif.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinTed Cruz wants to destroy the Senate as we know it A package proposal for repatriation Silencing of Warren another example of hyperpartisan Senate MORE (Mich.), Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiAfter 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? DC restaurant owners sue Trump hotel over unfair competition: report Meet the Trump pick who could lead Russia probe MORE (Md.), Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (Calif.), Commerce Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (W.Va.), Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Tom CarperTom CarperOvernight Energy: Ethanol groups prep for fight over mandate Dems ask Pruitt to ‘correct the record’ on personal email use Senate Dems introduce bill to rescind Trump border wall, immigration order MORE (Del.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyLive coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Dems land few punches on Gorsuch Live coverage: Day two of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Vt.), Energy Committee Chairman Ron WydenRon WydenThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs MORE (Ore.), and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (Iowa).

Democrats remain divided on this issue, however. On Thursday, 26 senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would impose new and tougher sanctions against Iran.

That move challenges requests by the Obama administration, which says new sanctions threaten negotiations over a final deal with Iran on its nuclear program. 

Sens. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezSteve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senators to Trump: We support additional Iran sanctions MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Ill.) introduced the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act,” joined by 24 other senators. 

The measure would implement prospective sanctions against Iran if its government fails to comply with the interim nuclear deal the United States and its allies reached last month. Over the next six months, Iran is required to limit the amount of uranium it enriches and effectively freeze its program.

“Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table,” Menendez said in a statement Thursday. “Prospective sanctions will influence Iran’s calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution.”

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The proposed sanctions would require the U.S. to further reduce the amount of petroleum it purchases from Iran, and apply additional penalties to parts of Iran’s economy including its construction, engineering and mining sectors.

The Democratic co-sponsors are Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder Gorsuch hearings: A referendum on Originalism and corporate power MORE (N.Y.), Ben CardinBen CardinSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate confirms Trump's pick for Israel ambassador Rand Paul roils the Senate with NATO blockade MORE (Md.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE Jr. (Pa.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Gorsuch sails on day one, but real test is Tuesday Live coverage: Supreme Court nominee hearings begin MORE (Del.), Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings MORE (Conn.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (La.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Chelsea Clinton to be honored by Variety, Lifetime Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward MORE (N.Y.), Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerSenate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers Overnight Cybersecurity: House Intel chair says surveillance collected on Trump transition team Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info MORE (Va.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellySenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate Dems: We won't help pass additional health bills RNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight MORE (Ind.).

Every Democrat considered vulnerable in his or her race for reelection next year is co-sponsoring this measure, a sign that they want to appear tough on foreign policy.

The Republican co-sponsors are Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support A real national security budget would fully fund State Department Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings MORE (S.C.), John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: General warns State Department cuts would hurt military | Bergdahl lawyers appeal Trump motion | Senators demand action after nude photo scandal Senate lawmakers eye hearing next week for Air Force secretary: report House Intel chairman under fire from all sides MORE (Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (Fla.), John CornynJohn CornynPaul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes Senate GOP hedges on ObamaCare repeal timeline GOP senator: 'We still need to figure out what the president was talking about' on wiretapping MORE (Texas), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteFEC commissioner to Trump: Prove voter fraud Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Lewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire MORE (N.H.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick Rand Paul roils the Senate with NATO blockade MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsFive takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Maine), Jerry MoranJerry MoranGOP lawmakers lead way in holding town halls Yahoo reveals new details about security A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Kan.), Pat RobertsPat RobertsDems mock House GOP over lack of women in healthcare meeting Perdue vows to be chief salesman for US agriculture abroad GOP senator apologizes for mammogram joke MORE (Kan.), Mike JohannsMike JohannsLobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops MORE (Neb.), Ted CruzTed CruzUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support Paul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE (Texas), and Roy BluntRoy BluntTop Dems prep for future while out of the spotlight Overnight Healthcare: Pressure mounts for changes to GOP ObamaCare bill Pressure mounts for changes to ObamaCare bill MORE (Mo.).

“This is a responsible, bipartisan bill to protect the American people from Iranian deception and I urge the Majority Leader to give the American people an up or down vote," Kirk said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Reid declined to promise a vote on any bill that would strengthen sanctions against Iran when Congress returns from its recess in January.

The White House and Iran have warned that passing such a bill would ruin talks regarding its nuclear program. Last week, the Senate Banking Committee decided to respect those warnings and not take one up. That committee would normally be responsible for such measures.

The new Menendez-Kirk bill would also require that any final deal with Iran end its ability to enrich uranium. Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCongress, Trump need a united front to face down Iran One year ago today we declared ISIS atrocities as genocide Trump’s realism toward Iran is stabilizing force for Middle East MORE has suggested that such a requirement was a nonstarter for Iran.  

“That deal was on the table a hundred years ago,” Kerry testified before the House Foreign Affairs panel last week. “But that deal, I'm afraid, has ... been lost.”

“At the end of this, I can't tell you they might not have some enrichment,” Kerry said, “But I can tell you with certainty it will not be possible for them to be able to turn that into a weapons program without our knowing it ... far in advance.” 

The bill would give the administration up to one year “to pursue a diplomatic track resulting in the complete and verifiable termination of Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.”

Julian Pecquet and Jeremy Herb contributed.