Senator backs off Iran sanctions markup

The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday backed off claims he'd made earlier in the day to shortly take up new sanctions against Iran.

Banking Committee Chairman Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonSeveral hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada MORE (D-S.D.) told The Hill in a statement that he would wait to see if any progress was made in diplomatic talks in Geneva before making a decision. Earlier in the day he told Reuters that he'd wait for this week's talks to be over with but that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “wants to mark up.”

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“I want to clarify my earlier remarks about a conversation I had with Majority Leader Reid,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “To be clear, Leader Reid did not ask me to make a final determination on a sanctions mark-up before this round of talks in Geneva has concluded. I don’t know the outcome of negotiations now underway in Geneva, and I plan to wait to hear any results of those talks from our negotiators before making a final decision.”

The reversal follows reports that Secretary of State John Kerry will make an unannounced trip to Geneva on Friday, the latest sign that the United States and five other nations are expected to reach a preliminary deal with Iran. The deal would loosen sanctions in exchange for a temporary freeze in uranium enrichment.

The White House is pressuring Johnson and Reid to delay any new sanctions until next year as it tries to reach a comprehensive deal on Iran's nuclear program. Lawmakers are skeptical of recently elected President Hassan Rouhani's overtures, however.

Senate Republicans have vowed to introduce new sanctions as an amendment to the Defense bill if Johnson doesn't act. The House voted 400-20 in July to tighten restrictions on Iran's energy sector.

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