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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Senate Democrats give Obama a deadline on Iran

Ten Senate Democrats have sent a letter to President Hussein Obama threatening to vote for time-triggered sanctions if Iran does not agree to a framework by March 24.
"In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24," said the letter, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is the co-author of Iran sanctions legislation.

"After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement," they wrote.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).
The White House had been pressuring Democrats to hold back on the sanctions bill, warning it could blow up the negotiations and empower hard-liners in Iran who want to walk away from the table.
With Democrats now pledging to hold their fire until March, it could set the stage for a last-ditch push to try and reach the outlines of a deal.
It is doubtful that any sanctions deal could be passed before then anyway.
All but two of the signatories — Peters and Stabenow — were co-sponsors of a previous version of the sanctions bill. But two Democrats who had previously sponsored an Iran bill — Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — did not sign the letter to Obama.

The letter describes the signatories as "supporters" for a new Iran sanctions bill, which could bring the bill closer to a veto-proof majority. If Republicans were united, they would need at least 13 Democrats in order to override a presidential veto.

"We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 — a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline," the letter said. 

While the Democrats pledged not to vote for the bill on the Senate floor, it says nothing about a Senate Banking Committee vote on Thursday, when some of the Democrats are expected to vote for advancing the bill.

An aide to Menendez said he still plans to co-sponsor and vote for the bill this Thursday.

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