Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.) suggested Wednesday that the missed Iran nuclear negotiation deadline is all the more reason for senators to pass his legislation, which could ramp up sanctions.
"By passing Kirk-Menendez, we increase pressure on Iran for a good deal," the senator said Wednesday in a statement. "Without it, we'll get a badly lopsided deal that paves Iran's path to nuclear weapons and sparks a nuclear arms race."
Kirk's legislation would reimpose sanctions that have been rolled back by the Obama administration, as well as add additional ones, if a bargain over Iran's nuclear program isn't struck by the end of June, the current deadline for finalizing one.
Negotiators had set a self-imposed deadline of Tuesday to reach a framework for a comprehensive deal on Iran's nuclear program. Marie Harf, the State Department's acting spokeswoman, said "enough progress" had been made to extend the talks until Wednesday.
But Kirk, who could face a tough reelection battle next year in his blue state, warned that the administration "has made a series of dangerous nuclear concessions to Iran and gotten nothing in return."
The Illinois senator's comments are the latest from congressional Republicans who have repeatedly warned that the administration was setting itself up to get a "bad deal."
Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonIt's time for Fauci to go — but don't expect it to happen Is the Navy totally at sea? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite MORE (R-Ark.) said Tuesday that the administration should "walk away" from the negotiations and reinstate sanctions.
“The decision to extend the nuclear negotiations in the face of Iranian intransigence and duplicity proves once again that Iran is calling the shots," he said in a statement. “The best solution is walk away from the nuclear negotiations now and return to a position of strength."
Cotton spearheaded a controversial letter to Iranian leadership earlier this year that warned any deal on Iran's nuclear program could be voided after President Obama leaves office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin backs raising debt ceiling with reconciliation if GOP balks Biden needs to be both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside Billionaire tax gains momentum MORE (R-Ky.) suggested last month that the Senate could take up the Kirk-Menendez legislation if a deal isn't reached.
The administration has threatened to veto Iran sanctions legislation. Either way, with Congress in the midst of a two weeklong Easter recess, any action that senators might take is on hold until at least mid-April.