Dems Undecided on Imminent Iran Sanctions Vote

WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) is expected to advance legislation next week tightening sanctions against Iran with a vote possibly coming as early as Tuesday, according to multiple legislative sources who spoke with Jewish Insider. Introduced by Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on March 23rd, S. 722 targets Iran’s support for terrorism and its ballistic missile program.

However, with only days left before the SFRC is expected to vote on the legislation, leading Democrats remain undecided. “It continues to be a work in progress. Congress clearly retains the right in the wake of the nuclear agreement to apply new sanctions for Iran’s non-nuclear provocative behavior in the region,” Chris Murphy (D-CT) explained. “It’s a matter of right-sizing those sanctions to the actions Iran has taken. I wasn’t a co-sponsor of the initial bill so we are working through amendments right now.”

When asked by Jewish Insider, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) explained, “I’m still looking at it. We are looking at it trust me, But, it’s a little bit premature.”

On a similar note, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said, “We’re holding lots of conversations about it. There are a lot of amendments that are being considered. We don’t know the shape of the bill and I’m looking forward to what actually comes before the committee.”

AIPAC has strongly endorsed the bill, including it as one of the group’s top lobbying items at its annual policy conference. J Street has been urging members to oppose the legislation because it argues that the bill will harm the nuclear deal signed by former President Barak Obama.

Currently, the bill has 45 co-sponsors with only 14 Democrats joining the Republicans including Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the Ranking Democrat on the committee along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE). Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the SFRC, signaled her opposition to the legislation, telling Jewish Insider, “I have reservations about it. I am particularly concerned that we are acting on it when it’s more critical for us to act on Russia sanctions right now. I’m concerned about the impact it will have on the JCPOA.”

The legislation had been delayed to prevent any appearance of US interference in the Iranian Presidential elections scheduled for Friday. With almost unanimous support from Republicans on the committee — with the possible exception of independent-minded Rand Paul (R-KY) — it is considered highly likely that the legislation will pass through committee and advance for a full floor vote.

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