Top Dems divided on more Iran sanctions

Ten Democratic Senate committee chairmen wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenators briefed on US Navy's encounters with UFOs: report Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview MORE (D-Nev.) late Wednesday urging him not to allow a vote on a bill that would impose tougher sanctions against Iran.

“At this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail,” they wrote in the letter, obtained by The Hill.

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The letter is signed by 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 (S.D.), Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinYoung activists press for change in 2020 election The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Democrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks MORE (Calif.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (Mich.), Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (Md.), Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman 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 (Calif.), Commerce Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (W.Va.), Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe '90-10 rule' in higher education is a target on veterans' backs Trump proposal nixes review of long-term climate impacts Democrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks MORE (Del.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (Vt.), Energy Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Grassley announces opposition to key Trump proposal to lower drug prices Exclusive: Trump administration delayed releasing documents related to Yellowstone superintendent's firing MORE (Ore.), and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinKey endorsements: A who's who in early states Stop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate MORE (Iowa).

Democrats remain divided on this issue, however. On Thursday, 26 senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would impose new and tougher sanctions against Iran.

That move challenges requests by the Obama administration, which says new sanctions threaten negotiations over a final deal with Iran on its nuclear program. 

Sens. 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 (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and 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 (R-Ill.) introduced the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act,” joined by 24 other senators. 

The measure would implement prospective sanctions against Iran if its government fails to comply with the interim nuclear deal the United States and its allies reached last month. Over the next six months, Iran is required to limit the amount of uranium it enriches and effectively freeze its program.

“Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table,” Menendez said in a statement Thursday. “Prospective sanctions will influence Iran’s calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution.”

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The proposed sanctions would require the U.S. to further reduce the amount of petroleum it purchases from Iran, and apply additional penalties to parts of Iran’s economy including its construction, engineering and mining sectors.

The Democratic co-sponsors are Sens. 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 (N.Y.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinProposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars House votes to boost retirement savings MORE (Md.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump's mental health The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems, progressives preview anti-Biden offensive MORE Jr. (Pa.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (Del.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough MORE (Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (La.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandJuan Williams: Warren on the rise 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown 2020 Democrats vow to expand abortion access at Planned Parenthood event MORE (N.Y.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan senators to introduce bill forcing online platforms to disclose value of user data GOP senators divided over approach to election security Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers reach deal on robocall bill | Laid-off journalists launch ads targeting tech giants | Apple seeks tariff exemptions | Facebook's Libra invites scrutiny MORE (Va.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganTillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll North Carolina businessman will challenge Tillis in GOP primary Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE (N.C.), and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (Ind.).

Every Democrat considered vulnerable in his or her race for reelection next year is co-sponsoring this measure, a sign that they want to appear tough on foreign policy.

The Republican co-sponsors are Sens. 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 (S.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVeterans group to hand out USS John McCain T-shirts for July 4 on the National Mall Will we ever have another veteran as president? Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate GOP lawmaker on Iran: Congress should vote on 'what's worthy of spilling American blood and what isn't' The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? MORE (Fla.), John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats give Trump trade chief high marks GOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (Texas), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteKey endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law MORE (N.H.), 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 (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMaine House speaker announces challenge to Collins Senate seat GOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (Maine), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranOvernight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear 'grave situation' | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL's murder trial The 7 GOP senators who voted to block all or part of Trump's Saudi arms sale Senate votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (Kan.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste Conservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Juan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise MORE (Kan.), Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (Neb.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage 2020 Democrat Bennet releases comprehensive government reform plan GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (Texas), and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request GOP senators divided over approach to election security The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back MORE (Mo.).

“This is a responsible, bipartisan bill to protect the American people from Iranian deception and I urge the Majority Leader to give the American people an up or down vote," Kirk said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Reid declined to promise a vote on any bill that would strengthen sanctions against Iran when Congress returns from its recess in January.

The White House and Iran have warned that passing such a bill would ruin talks regarding its nuclear program. Last week, the Senate Banking Committee decided to respect those warnings and not take one up. That committee would normally be responsible for such measures.

The new Menendez-Kirk bill would also require that any final deal with Iran end its ability to enrich uranium. Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWill we ever have another veteran as president? The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's reelection message: Promises kept MORE has suggested that such a requirement was a nonstarter for Iran.  

“That deal was on the table a hundred years ago,” Kerry testified before the House Foreign Affairs panel last week. “But that deal, I'm afraid, has ... been lost.”

“At the end of this, I can't tell you they might not have some enrichment,” Kerry said, “But I can tell you with certainty it will not be possible for them to be able to turn that into a weapons program without our knowing it ... far in advance.” 

The bill would give the administration up to one year “to pursue a diplomatic track resulting in the complete and verifiable termination of Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.”

Julian Pecquet and Jeremy Herb contributed.