Obama to Dems: Wait on Iran sanctions

The White House acknowledged Thursday President Obama lobbied Democratic lawmakers to hold off on a new Iran sanctions bill during a cocktail hour Wednesday night at the White House.

"The issue of Iran and potential action on sanctions by Congress did come up and was addressed," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

"What the president said … is exactly what we've been saying publicly, which is that we appreciate the enormously beneficial partnership we've had with Congress is building the most effective sanctions regime in history but that now is not the time to pass a new sanctions measure, because it might have the inadvertent consequence of weakening the sanctions regime and reducing the president's flexibility."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated earlier this week he would hold off a vote on the proposed sanction bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, including 16 Democrats.

“While [the negotiations] are going on, and while the legislative process is working forward here, I’m going to sit and be as fair an umpire as I can be,” Reid said.

The bill would impose penalties on banks and companies that help Iran export more oil and blacklist certain Iranian industries, if Tehran does not agree to a comprehensive nuclear agreement within the next six months. 

But the president has threatened a veto, saying the bill endangered negotiations.

Republicans have blasted Reid for stalling the vote.

“We believe we ought to have that vote,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the support of a very large bipartisan majority here in the Senate.”

— Jeremy Herb contributed.