The Senate unanimously approved a non-binding amendment to the budget on Thursday that would reimpose sanctions on Iran if the country violated the interim agreement that has paused its nuclear activities and any final deal it reaches with the United States and its negotiating partners.
The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) but differs from legislation introduced by Kirk and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to impose harsh sanctions against Iran if it does not sign-on to a negotiated agreement or fails to comply with the terms of any possible deal.
The Obama administration has vowed to veto the bill, but Republicans touted the unanimous passage of the Kirk-Brown amendment as an indication that all senators wish to weigh in on the president’s Iran policy and are likely to approve the more stringent Kirk-Menendez bill with a veto-proof majority. A separate measure, sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), requiring the administration to submit a final deal for Congressional approval, has also received a veto threat from the White House.
“The bipartisan Kirk-Brown amendment on Iran is now even more consistent with the Kirk-Menendez Iran bill to immediately impose sanctions if Iran cheats. When you vote for the Kirk-Brown amendment, you support Kirk-Menendez Iran sanctions,” Kirk told Politico.
Democrats, meanwhile, voted for the amendment because they claimed it would hold Iran accountable for advancing its nuclear program without undermining Obama’s ongoing negotiations. “I hope we can all vote for this because it doesn’t do anything to cause disarray in the negotiations. What it says is if there is a deal and there’s a break-out by Iran, we’d have a very quick way to restore sanctions,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said before the vote.
The Obama administration has been actively lobbying Democrats to oppose legislation imposing additional sanctions against Iran, arguing that any such measure would only provide Iran’s hardliners with an excuse to end the negotiations — potentially moving the two nations closer to a military confrontation. Democrats have promised to hold off on supporting additional sanctions until after the deadline for negotiations at the end of this month. Press reports indicate that both sides seem to be close to a deal that would contain Iran’s nuclear program for at least a decade and provide sanction relief for Tehran.
This post was updated to better reflect the relationship between the Kirk amendment and the Kirk bill.