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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.

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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) MenendezDemocrats gear up for major push to lower drug prices Biden under pressure to spell out Cuba policy Senators to Biden: 'We must confront the reality' on Iran nuclear program MORE (N.J.), along with Republican co-sponsor 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 (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 SchumerChuck SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border 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 BoxerBottom line Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status MORE (D-Calif.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - World mourns the death of Prince Philip The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements 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 CorkerSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 It's time for Biden's Cuba MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who recently accompanied Obama on a presidential trip, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Sanders expresses 'serious concerns' with Biden's defense increase 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 McConnellRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE (R-Ky.) has only promised a vote on the Iran bill from Kirk and Menendez.