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A new Iran sanctions bill in the Senate may already have the support of 34 Democratic senators despite White House attempts to ensure the measure dies before coming to a vote, according to a senior Jewish community official with ties to the White House and Congress.
William Daroff, a top Jewish community insider who is frequently in contact with the White House and lawmakers, announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon that the new Iran sanctions measure had the support of 62 percent of Senate Democrats.
The bipartisan sanctions bill authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) would increase economic pressure on Tehran should it fail to comply with a recently inked deal meant to curb its contested nuclear program.
“Just heard from VERY reliable source: Menendez-Kirk #Iran sanctions bill has support of 34 Democratic Senators (62% of Senate Dems),” tweeted Daroff, who serves as senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington Office of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), an umbrella group that lobbies on behalf of Jewish communities across the country.
Daroff did not respond to a request to elaborate on his tweet.
If accurate, the overwhelming support would deal a blow to the White House, which has been lobbying its Democratic allies to oppose the measure.
The bill currently has 55 bipartisan cosponsors and is expected to gain more in the coming days, according to Senate sources.
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) was among the latest to signal his support for the legislation.
Senate insiders say that the bill is quickly gaining steam and could soon reach 60 cosponsors.
“If we have 60 cosponsors and more than 67 votes on the whip count, it’s game over for the White House,” a senior Senate aide told the Washington Free Beacon.
Pro-Israel groups such as JFNA and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been lobbying on behalf of the sanctions measure.
One source close to AIPAC said the Bennet’s public support of the bill could signal a sea change on the Democratic side, where some remain worried about bucking the White House.
"Sen. Bennet's support for S. 1881 is significant for a number of reasons, among them that as a liberal Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, his action signals to his colleagues that they can take an important and principled stand to give the president enhanced leverage in negotiations and safeguard the U.S. sanctions policy in the event that the interim deal fails,” one former AIPAC official told the Free Beacon.
“Sen. Bennet, along with the other 54 bipartisan cosponsors of the legislation deserve to be commended for their steadfast and thoughtful leadership,” the source said.
While Democratic outposts such as the Center for American Progress Action Fund's ThinkProgress blog have sought to downplay support for the bill, Daroff's tweet is a sign that the opposition is becoming desperate as the bill continues to gain traction.
A similar measure in the House has failed to gain traction following an anti-sanctions lobbying bid led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), according to sources.