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) MenendezSenate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (N.J.), along with Republican co-sponsor Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year 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 SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' 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 BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D-Calif.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Washington braces for Trump's next move on Iran Overnight Defense: Latest on Iran after Trump halts planed strike | Dems call Trump's approach 'erratic' | Key Republican urges Trump to retaliate | Esper reportedly getting Defense secretary nomination 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 CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who recently accompanied Obama on a presidential trip, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions 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 McConnellBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility California governor predicts 'xenophobic' GOP will likely be third party in 15 years This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request MORE (R-Ky.) has only promised a vote on the Iran bill from Kirk and Menendez.