widespread approvalby the American public, Senate Democrats have been
very scepticalof the Obama administration’s temporary agreement with Iran over their nuclear program. Democratic foreign policy hawks are concerned that the interim deal allows Iran to continue low-level uranium enrichment while the U.S. eases some economic sanctions.
The Obama administration has touted the agreement as only a first step. Negotiations will take place over the next six months to come to a comprehensive agreement. That’s the hard part.
But Congressional Democrats may undermine the chances of reaching a pact before those negotiations even begin. Against lobbying from the White House, they are considering a new bill that would put tougher sanctions on Iran in six months if the sides cannot reach a final agreement.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) believes such a bill “strengthens the administration’s hand” and “would make clear to the Iranians if they don’t strike a deal, this is what’s coming.”
But the Iranians are already well aware that the international community will not sit idly by if negotiations fail. Though Menendez may believe that the bill gives the administration more bargaining power, the White House is lobbying Senate Democrats to hold off on passing a bill.
In an interview with the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a hawk in the House, outlined a strategy that would give the administration space to strike a deal, but also ensure that Congress would be ready to pass further sanctions at a moment’s notice if the interim pact lapsed.
“The sanctions can still be used as a club,” Engel said. “I don’t know that it has to be passed on the floor. Maybe that’s the compromise: You keep them ready to go at a moment’s notice, and you give the administration some breathing room.”
Yet, Democrats seem to be taking a hard line on this, based on a Washington Post story today:
A bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators is spending the remaining week of the Thanksgiving recess forging agreement on a new sanctions bill that the senators hope to pass before breaking again for Christmas.
These senior senators believe they are acting in the White House’s interest, even as administration officials adamantly claim otherwise.
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