A leading U.S. senator is pushing for new sanctions against the Iranian regime over its nuclear program, but he said he would be willing to set aside his efforts if Obama would submit any agreement with Tehran to Congress for lawmakers to approve or reject.
On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “I’m willing to forgo that vote with the understanding that any deal he negotiates will come to the Congress for our approval or disapproval as a check and balance.”
Imposing sanctions on the Iranian regime to force it to curtail its nuclear weapons program has strong bipartisan support in Congress.
The proposed sanctions would go into effect only if the negotiations fail and if the June 30 deadline is not met, according to a congressional aide, The Associated Press reported.
Graham described congressional efforts as signaling to the Iranian regime that “we would like a political negotiation, a diplomatic solution. But please understand in Iran that the Congress is intent on reapplying sanctions if you walk away from the negotiating table and if you cheat”.
“I don’t think that’s a disruptive message,” Graham said.
As an alternative, he said that if Obama “thinks sanctions is disruptive to a good outcome, I’m willing to forgo that vote with the understanding that any deal he negotiates will come to the Congress for our approval or disapproval as a check and balance”.
This weekend, Senate staffers confirmed to Fox News some details about upcoming legislation sponsored by Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
They said the legislation supports international negotiations with Iran, provides a diplomatic insurance policy if the talks fail and assures that no new sanctions will be imposed if a deal is reached.
Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he had no faith in Mr. Obama’s ability to negotiate a deal that would stop the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons.
“These negotiations were lost right from the get-go when we lessened sanctions and we basically allowed Iran to continue to enrich uranium, contrary to all the U.N. resolutions,” Mr. Johnson said on “Fox News Sunday”.
“I do not see a good deal coming out of this administration, and a bad deal is worse than no deal at all. I think imposing additional sanctions is the only way to bring Iran to the negotiating table in good faith,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, who appeared on the same show as Mr. Johnson, agreed that Congress has to be ready to impose additional penalties if the Iranian regime continues to pursue nuclear arms.
“The question is when do we do it, and that’s the issue and discussions taking place on Capitol Hill,” said Mr. Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking member on the committee, is the leading Democratic proponent of passing more sanctions against the Iranian regime.
Supporters of Iran sanctions in the U.S. Senate have unveiled a toned-down bill aimed at gaining enough votes to override a presidential veto, the AFP reported on Sunday.
According to the report, on Thursday the Senate banking committee will discuss and vote on the new bill proposed by Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Robert Menendez, two senators who have sponsored previous sanctions bills.
Their long-awaited bill was made public on Friday but has not been formally introduced in the Senate.
The revised bill would gradually impose sanctions against Iran if, by July 1, no final deal is reached in the talks under way between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group – the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.