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 KirkBiden's relationship with 'Joe-Joe' Manchin hits the rocks Let's fix America's accounting problem — starting with Build Back Better Duckworth announces reelection bid MORE (R-Ill.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia Senate Democrats unveil bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine 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 SchumerDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSchumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Democrats' filibuster gambit unravels MORE (D-Mont.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Virginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters MORE (D-N.D.), and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights 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 BrownDemocrats see good chance of Garland prosecuting Trump On the Money — Student borrowers stare down rising prices Biden selects Sarah Bloom Raskin, two others for Fed board MORE (D-Ohio), the committee’s ranking member, Jack ReedJack ReedDefense bill sets up next fight over military justice  Ukraine president, US lawmakers huddle amid tensions with Russia Photos of the Week: Tornado aftermath, Medal of Honor and soaring superheroes MORE (D-R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Manchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting bill Senate GOP blocks election bill, setting up filibuster face-off MORE (D-Ore.), and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple 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 CorkerRepublicans, ideology, and demise of the state and local tax deduction Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force 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 CottonSenate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  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.