WASHINGTON – Republicans in the US Senate are trying to revive a stalled bill that would trigger new tools for sanctions against Iran should negotiations over its nuclear program fail.
With a majority of senators against a vote on sanctions while talks between Iran and world powers remain underway, Republicans are now attempting to add the text of the bill as an amendment to unrelated legislation.
On Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said he hoped to attach the sanctions language to a bill expanding healthcare and education programs for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And on Tuesday, a similar suggestion was made by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) regarding a bill reforming military procedures on instances of sexual assault.
French officials, meanwhile, told The Jerusalem Post that new action from Congress would be “counterproductive” to the diplomatic process in Vienna, saying it would threaten to undermine implementation of an interim agreement reached last November in Geneva that temporarily froze Tehran’s nuclear work.
The French spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of engaging in foreign political debate.
The Republican tactic, used frequently in Congress by the party in the minority, is not guaranteed to work – but might be the Republicans’ best chance to debate the bill on the floor after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) declined to give it a vote at the height of the bill’s popularity.
Since the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 was first introduced in December by a bipartisan group of legislators, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it, warning that new action in Congress would undermine the Geneva agreement.
“A broad bipartisan majority in the Senate would like to vote on Iran sanctions,” McConnell insisted on Wednesday.
“The dilemma we have here is that the majority leader does not want this vote to occur.”
Meanwhile, new figures from tracking agencies show that Iran’s oil exports increased yet again in February by over 100,000 barrels per day, to up to 1.3 million bpd for the month, calling into question the integrity of the international community’s existing sanctions infrastructure after the Geneva deal.
Citing the figures, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, tweeted on Tuesday that “pressure on Iran is dissipating.”