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Iran sanctions bill passes Senate panel

Members of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran if a comprehensive agreement to roll back its nuclear program is not reached by June 30.

The bill, co-authored by Sens. 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.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezJuan Williams: A breakthrough on immigration? Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 Bottom line MORE (D-N.J.), passed in the committee by an 18-4 vote.

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All 12 Republicans on the committee voted for the bill, as did six Democrats.

The Democrats that voted for the bill included Sens. Menendez, Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterAmericans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (D-Mont.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (D-N.D.), and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (D-Ind.).

Schumer called the bill "a good step forward."

"If they don't come to a tough strong agreement...there will be further sanctions and further actions," he said.

Democrats who voted against included Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (D-Ohio), the committee’s ranking member, Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Bipartisan Senate group calls for Biden to impose more sanctions on Myanmar junta A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US MORE (D-Ore.), and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDebate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' MORE (D-Mass.).

The bill, which is softer than one proposed last year by Kirk and Menendez, would allow the president to waive sanctions indefinitely for 30 days at a time.

Last year’s bill garnered 17 Democratic co-sponsors, but Democratic support for the current bill was not clear after President Obama threatened during his State of the Union address to veto the bill. The administration argues any sanctions legislation passed before June 30 would derail the talks by empowering hardliners in Iran who oppose a deal, and break the cohesion among negotiators from the U.S. and its allies.

Menendez, however, kept together a coalition of 10 Democrats who support the bill, promising the White House not to support a vote on the bill before March 24, by when negotiators agreed to reach a framework agreement.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Fox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member MORE (R-Tenn.) said that promise would effectively delay a vote on the Senate floor of the vote until then.

"All of us understand it's not going to be voted on before March 24," he said.

Brown urged lawmakers to wait until June 30 the negotiators’ deadline for an agreement.

"Congress should have the collective patience to wait until the end of June to see whether our negotiators can resolve the nuclear issue with Iran through diplomacy," Brown said.

"Once that is determined, Congress and the president will unquestionably join hands in applying greater pressure," he added.

The passage of the bill in committee, however, is a sign that Democrats are running out of patience.

With 54 Republicans in the Senate, Democratic support of the bill is necessary to reach a veto-proof majority of 67 votes.

The committee also passed several amendments during the mark-up session.

An amendment by Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) would require the Treasury Department to submit an assessment on economic sanctions relief five days after a deal is reached.

Another amendment, from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), would require Congress to vote on any final deal reached.

The panel also approved two amendments from Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE (R-La.) that insert into the bill a statement of Israel's right to defend itself and strengthen verification of Iran's cooperation with any deal.

The committee voted down two amendments by a new member, Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union MORE (R-Ark.), that would have had all proposed sanctions kick in after July 6 -- instead of in graduated steps after July 6 -- and would have allowed the president to waive the start of the sanctions by 30 days only once instead of indefinitely.

--This report was updated at 12:40 p.m.