The U.S. Senate Banking Committee voted today to advance an Iran sanctions bill that has been a source of deep tension between the White House and Congress.
Approved in an 18-4 committee vote, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, introduced by U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), seeks to give the P5+1 powers (U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany) leverage in negotiations with Iran by threatening additional sanctions on Tehran unless it reaches an agreement with by a June 30 deadline.
Despite its committee-level passage, the bill is unlikely to reach the Senate floor before March 24, the deadline for a “political framework agreement” between Iran and its negotiating partners. President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address that he will veto any new Iran sanctions bill, which he said would harm diplomatic efforts with Iran.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a co-sponsor of the bill and one of six Democrats on the committee who voted for it, said he will vote for the bill on the floor of the Senate if the Iranians don’t reach a framework agreement by March 24.
“The only way Iran will voluntarily stop their march for nuclear weapons is if they know that tougher and tougher sanctions will be enacted if they fail to come a strong agreement that prohibits them from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Schumer said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) praised the Senate Banking Committee for adopting “critical legislation,” and urged the full Senate to do the same.
“The Kirk-Menendez legislation will increase the prospects for successful negotiations by making it clear to Iran that it will again face steep economic pressure if it stalls or fails to make the compromises needed to reach a deal,” AIPAC said.