Republicans push for tougher Iran sanctions despite nuclear talks

Posted by Sean Cockerham on February 26, 2014 

WASHINGTON --  Senate Republicans are attempting to resurrect a bill to tighten sanctions on Iran in spite of the president saying it would threaten negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called Wednesday for a vote on the stalled bill.

“Let’s hold Iran accountable. Let’s do the right thing, approve this legislation, and send it to the president’s desk,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate.

Obama has threatened to veto the bill, insisting it could threaten efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. A six-month deal to essentially freeze Iranian’s nuclear activities in return for a modest easing of sanctions expires on July 20. Obama said he hopes to use the time to negotiate a long term deal.

Senators from both parties, distrustful of Iran’s intentions, originally signed on to a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran.

But Democrats largely dropped the idea after Obama lobbied them to do so. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is not interested in allowing a vote on the sanctions bill.

Reid’s spokesman, Adam Jentleson, accused the Republicans Wednesday of using the issue for partisan political gain.

Jentleson also pointed to opposition to a Iran sanctions vote by the nation’s most influential pro-Israel lobbying group. The hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee is urging the Senate to hold off on action as diplomatic efforts for a long term deal come together.

Republican leader McConnell said Wednesday that the bill is needed to “put teeth” into the diplomatic talks. He said the new sanctions wouldn’t take effect unless the negotiations fall apart.

“There is no excuse for muzzling the Congress on an issue of this importance to our own national security, to the security of Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East, and to international security,” he said.

Republicans, frustrated over the bill’s lack of progress, are attempting to include the new Iran sanctions into a measure expanding benefits for veterans.

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