Senate is speeding toward Iran showdown

Senate is speeding toward Iran showdown
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Republicans are planning to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill this week despite objections from Democrats and a veto threat from President Obama.

The Senate Banking Committee is set to vote on the sanctions bill Thursday in what will be an early test of Democratic support for the legislation.


GOP senators are eager to have the Iran debate, which could be a chance to hit Obama as weak on foreign policy and make members of his party squirm.

The bill has the full-throated support of at least one Democrat, Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (N.J.), along with Republican co-sponsor Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven Kirk The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Advocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio MORE (Ill.), who is facing a tough reelection race in 2016.

The legislation would impose additional sanctions on Iran if the country fails to reach a comprehensive deal to roll back its nuclear program with the United States and other world powers.

Opponents of the bill say it would strengthen hardliners in Iran who oppose the talks, and the White House has repeatedly warned it could squander the chance for a peaceful end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The bill’s supporters note the sanctions would not be imposed until after the June 30 deadline for the talks, and no earlier than July 6, and say the threat of additional sanctions strengthens America’s hand in the negotiations.

The terms are softer than an earlier version of the bill, which 17 Democrats co-sponsored, by allowing the president to indefinitely waive the sanctions for 30 days at a time if a deal is near. 

Still, Obama is pushing senators to withhold support for the bill, and some Democrats last week suggested they were having second thoughts about the timing of the legislation.

Of the 10 Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, one of the most telling votes could come from Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.), who has been a vocal supporter of the previous sanctions bill and has pledged to be Israel’s guardian in the Senate.

Schumer told The Hill on Monday he intends to be a co-sponsor of Menendez’s bill.

“It’s up to when Menendez introduces it,” he said.

Republicans have a two-seat advantage on the Banking panel, so it’s possible the sanctions bill could advance to the Senate floor by a 12-10 margin, if Democrats withhold support.

If the Iran bill were to pass on the floor, Republicans would need 13 Democratic supporters to override a veto, which could prove difficult, particularly with alternative legislation now emerging in the Senate.

Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul: Almost every mass shooter 'is sending off signals' Liz Cheney says world is more stable, 'safer' under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (R-Ky.) announced last week that they would propose their own Iran measure, which would renew sanctions if Iran were to violate the current interim agreement.

Given the support of Paul, a top GOP contender for the White House, the bill could give Democrats bipartisan cover to oppose the broader sanctions legislation, should it come up for a vote.

Other Republicans to watch in the Iran debate include Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who recently accompanied Obama on a presidential trip, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWe've lost sight of the real scandal The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? The Memo: Times correction gives GOP lifeline in latest Kavanaugh controversy MORE (R-S.C.). 

Corker, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, plans to push his own bill that would allow Congress the final say on any deal reached with Iran. Graham voiced strong support for Corker’s measure during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week. 

Thus far, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US New York Times authors blame Kavanaugh correction on editing error: 'There was zero intent to mislead' The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? MORE (R-Ky.) has only promised a vote on the Iran bill from Kirk and Menendez.