Democratic Official: Reid should consider tougher Iran sanctions

March 30, 2012

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) is refusing to consider amendments to an Iran sanctions bill, imperiling its chances of passage and putting him out of step with more than 90 percent of Democrats as well as President Obama, according to sources on Capitol Hill.

Reid declared yesterday that he would not negotiate on an Iran sanctions initiative that is widely supported by Democrats and Republicans. Instead, Reid shut down debate on the measure, effectively preventing members of both parties from offering amendments that would make the bill tougher.

This puts Reid out of step with not only his party, but the president as well, who came out today in favor of expanded sanctions against the Iranian regime.

"My understanding of the most important amendments offered is that they have broad bipartisan support in the Senate and they have certainly been supported by key Democrats in the House," said one Democrat on Capitol Hill. "At the very least Reid should consider those ideas that have been pushed by members of his own party. I don’t understand why he is doing this."

The Democrat added, "Iran sanctions need to be done and they need to be implemented. The House has done its part, the president has done his part and the Senate needs to theirs as well—the Senate should not be out of step with the president and the House."

Tougher Iran sanctions amendments have already gained traction in the House, where they were introduced by several Democrats, among them Reps. Brad Sherman and Ted Deutch.

The language in each bill closely reflects an Iran sanctions measure that was authored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) as he recovers from a recent stroke, according to sources.

"Everyone knows that Senator Kirk had been preparing an amendment for the last few weeks, in partnership with several House Democratic offices, to attach to the Senate Iran sanctions bill during floor consideration," said a senior Congressional aide who has been working on sanctions legislation.

The aide lashed out at Reid for thwarting congressional efforts to sanction Iran.

"Never mind that more than half of the Kirk amendment was already introduced by a Democrat, Brad Sherman in the House; never mind that just yesterday, another key piece of the Kirk amendment was introduced in the House by another Democrat, Ted Deutch," the aide sarcastically said. "And never mind that another key piece of the Kirk amendment was already passed with more than 400 votes in the House in HR 1905."

The multiple House bills proposed by Democrats hew closely to language originally penned by Kirk. Among other things, the bills would expand current financial sanctions against Iran to cover more institutions and give the president the power to sanction any entity that deals with an Iranian financial institution.

Other amendments would expand sanctions to Iran’s energy sector and force the president to investigate potential violations of the sanctions.