Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he and other Senate Democrats would hold off voting on a bill that would place new sanctions on Iran, a move President Barack Obama has previously threatened to veto, fearing it might undermine negotiations.
“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,” Menendez wrote in a public letter to the president. “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.”
The letter, signed by nine other Senate Democrats, expressed skepticism that ongoing negotiations with Iran to stop its nuclear programs, which has lasted 18 months thus far, could yield results. It also reiterated the need for sanctions to go into effect if the full details of an agreement are not hashed out by June 30th.
“In my view we need Iran to understand there are consequences if they fail to reach a comprehensive agreement, and the consequences are closing loopholes in existing sanctions and expanding sectoral sanctions,” Menendez said.
“At the end of the day, Iran needs to make up its mind on what’s more important, it’s nuclear weapons program or the welfare of its people.”
The support of Menendez and the group of Senators who signed the letter would likely be critical for the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 to gather enough votes to override a presidential veto.
The Act would require congressional approval of any White House agreement with Iran, and impose progressively more stringent restrictions on Iranian export of oil to the United States and other countries. It would also impose sanctions on foreign banks that do business with Iranian financial institutions.