Majority of senators back new Iran sanctions, pressuring Obama

A majority of senators back new sanctions on Iran, complicating the Obama administration's efforts to avoid a vote on legislation it claims could derail nuclear talks.

Fifty-three lawmakers have signed on to the measure from Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), according to the latest count from the Library of Congress.

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The bipartisan bill had 26 co-sponsors when it was introduced on Dec. 19 and has quickly been gaining traction since then; it drew another seven before the December recess and 20 more this week.

The bill calls for new sanctions if Iran reneges on its commitments under an interim deal reached last year or fails to agree to a final bill that would ban it from enriching uranium. The White House has threatened to veto the measure.

Further adding to the pressure: Some five dozen conservative experts and former officials wrote to congressional leaders on Thursday urging them to set tough parameters for any final deal with Iran, The Daily Beast reports. Signatories include former Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). The House voted 400-20 to slap additional sanctions on Iran's energy sector in July and is expected to easily pass a new sanctions bill if it clears the Senate.

“Our bill is gaining support. I still support moving on it. I’m also looking at how the negotiations are going on with Iran, which hasn’t even concluded an interim agreement. So we’ll see how that goes,” Menendez told The Daily Beast. “It seems to me that Congress is going to have some voice on that no matter what, whether it’s our bill or not.”

The latest senators to sign on Wednesday are: John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Michael Bennett (D-Col.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). 

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