Senate Breaks With
White House on Iran

New sanctions introduced this afternoon despite White House pleas

Hassan Rowhani / AP
December 19, 2013

A bipartisan group of senators filed a new Iran sanctions measure on Thursday afternoon, just days after the White House and its Democratic allies successfully killed a similar measure.

The White House released a statement Thursday afternoon saying the president would veto the bill if it passes.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), would impose tougher sanctions on Tehran if it refuses to dismantle its contested nuclear program after the end of a six-month negotiating period.

The White House and its allies in the Senate fought tooth and nail last week to kill a similar measure backed by Kirk and Menendez.

However, the issue of greater sanctions continues to garner bipartisan support among Republicans and centrist Democrats in Congress, leaving the White House with few avenues to stymie the new bill.

The bill would give the White House up to a year to negotiate with Iran before tighter sanctions take effect.

The regulations would take effect sooner if Iran reneges on any aspect of the interim nuclear deal, launches a ballistic missile, or plans a terror attack against the United States, according to reports and sources familiar with the legislation.

The bill has already garnered support from a quarter of the Senate and could come to a vote next month.

The Iranians have stated multiple times that they will leave the negotiating table if any new sanctions take effect.

Iranian negotiators abruptly left talks last week after the White House announced additional sanctions designations under existing legislation.

Capitol Hill insiders say that the White House and allies like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would like to delay a vote on the measure despite overwhelming support.

"Clearly the White House has loyal foot soldiers in the Senate who will do or say anything to block for the president," said one senior congressional aide familiar with the new legislation. "The problem is that when you try to put politics ahead of policy you end up out of step with the American people. Try as they might, these partisans will not win."

CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer said he sees no reason why the bill should stall.

"I assume it will pass, especially since they give the Iranians a year to comply with this deal, this interim deal, if it works out, these new sanctions would not go into effect in the course of the year," Blitzer said during a Thursday afternoon report on the measure.

"If it doesn't work out, the sanctions would go into effect," Blitzer said. "I assume it would pass the Senate if allowed to come up for a vote, pass the House of Representatives. Here's the question, I don't know if we have reaction from the White House. If the House passes it, the Senate passes it, would the president veto it or sign it into law?"

Meanwhile, Iran launched a new series of war drills on Thursday and continued to accuse the White House of breaching the terms of the nuclear deal.