Sen. Schatz: ‘No way’ Corker-Cotton Iran bill passes

WASHINGTON – Despite increased talk on Capitol Hill to strengthen sanctions against Iran, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) dismissed the possibility that legislation targeting Tehran sponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) will advance into law. Last week, the Republican Senators revealed their intention to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) by reimposing nuclear sanctions if Iran came within a year of obtaining nuclear weapons, eliminating the sunset provisions. “There is no way this will pass,” Schatz told Jewish Insider on Monday. “It is crazy because Iran got what it wanted (initial sanctions relief), so Iran will be cheerleading anything that allows the U.S to break the deal because then they get their money and nuclear program too. It’s the worst of all worlds.”

In contrast to an Iran sanctions bill introduced by Senators Corker and Ben Cardin (D-MD) which passed overwhelmingly (98-2) earlier this year, the Corker Cotton legislation has not garnered sponsorship from any Democrats. The bill will require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and will need to attract backing from at least eight Democrats. Even Democratic lawmakers who voted against the JCPOA in 2015, such as Cardin and Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL), have argued against decertification and in favor of preserving the nuclear agreement. “We will not buy into the false premise that it is Congress’ role to legislate solutions to problems of [Trump’s] own making,” Cardin said last week.

On the Republican side, there appeared to be more interest in the bill. “I am certainly open to it, but I need to see what’s in it,” explained Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). “There is a whole range of issues to deal with. You have the ballistic missile program. You have the ability to inspect military installations so we know what they are doing. You have the state sponsorship of terror.”

Corker told reporters that the law would also reimpose sanctions if Iran took certain unspecified steps related to its ballistic missile program, which is currently not part of the 2015 agreement.

Some Republicans are skeptical of the new effort to amend the JCPOA. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Politico last week, “I’m generally skeptical of the ability to fix it. I hope I’m wrong. I’m concerned that continuing to adhere to the deal in any capacity has long-term consequences that would make things worse, not better.”

“We passed a sanctions bill a couple of months back, and the administration has the power to do sanctions on the non-nuclear piece,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), who also serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I am not interested in anything that would step back from the deal, especially after Secretary (Jim) Mattis and General (Joseph) Dunford said it’s serving America’s National Security. They (Corker-Cotton) think they can negotiate a better deal, but you have Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense saying that the deal is working and making America safer.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.