Leery Senators Introduce New Iran Sanctions Bill

A bipartisan group of 26 senators introduced new legislation today proposing potential sanctions against Iran if the country fails to uphold the P5+1 agreement made last month or if it fails to reach a final agreement to terminate its nuclear weapons program.

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., which calls for additional reductions in purchases of Iranian petroleum and creates more penalties for parts of the Iranian economy, including engineering, mining and construction.

The bill also provides the administration with up to one year from implementation of the agreement to try to reach a diplomatic solution that would completely end Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table," Menendez said in a statement. "The Iranians last week blamed the Administration for enforcing sanctions; now, they criticize Congress. The burden rests with Iran to negotiate in good faith and verifiably terminate its nuclear weapons program. Prospective sanctions will influence Iran's calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution."

Kirk said in a statement, "The American people rightfully distrust Iran's true intentions and they deserve an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception during negotiations. This is a responsible, bipartisan bill to protect the American people from Iranian deception and I urge the Majority Leader to give the American people an up or down vote."

White House officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, briefed senators on the status of negotiations with Iran in the past month and asked senators to hold off on imposing any new sanctions in order to allow the diplomatic process to play out.

In a Time magazine interview earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Java Zarif warned that "the entire deal is done" if Congress enacts a sanctions bill, even one that wouldn't take effect for six months.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not said whether he would allow the new bill to have a vote on the Senate floor next year.

In addition to Menendez and Kirk, the bill is sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Ben Cardin, D-Md., John McCain, R-Ariz., Bob Casey, R-Pa., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Chris Coons, D-Del., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mary Landrieu, D-La., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mark Warner, D-Va., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Kay Hagan, R-N.C., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.