Iran-Sanctions Bill Offers Something for Everyone

US Senator Tom Carper (L), D-DE, talks with US Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, before a confirmation hearing for the new Internal Revenue Service commissioner on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 10, 2013.   
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
Dec. 19, 2013, 2:52 p.m.

Ini­tial ana­lyses of an Ir­an-sanc­tions bill in­tro­duced Thursday by Sens. Robert Men­en­dez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., ran the gamut from so ex­plos­ive that it threatens war with Ir­an — to so in­noc­u­ous it al­lows law­makers to achieve polit­ic­al ob­ject­ives without jeop­ard­iz­ing ne­go­ti­ations.

The bill, which would al­low the ad­min­is­tra­tion to have up to a year to ease sanc­tions while ne­go­ti­at­ing with Ir­an on a com­pre­hens­ive agree­ment to pre­vent it from achiev­ing nuc­le­ar-weapons cap­ab­il­it­ies, has an un­clear out­look in the Sen­ate.

On the pro side, Con­gress has routinely passed sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion with big bi­par­tis­an votes des­pite the ob­jec­tions of the ad­min­is­tra­tion. That’s on top of the fact that the Nuc­le­ar Weapon Free Ir­an Act was in­tro­duced with 26 spon­sors, split evenly between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans, demon­strat­ing that a broad swath of the Sen­ate already backs the le­gis­la­tion.

On the flip side, the ad­min­is­tra­tion adam­antly op­poses le­gis­la­tion, which it ar­gues could des­troy dip­lo­mat­ic talks. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id has so far shown little will­ing­ness to buck the ad­min­is­tra­tion on this pri­or­ity, and sev­er­al rel­ev­ant seni­or Demo­crats in the Sen­ate, like In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Di­anne Fein­stein, Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Carl Lev­in, and Bank­ing Chair­man Tim John­son have ar­gued that Con­gress should wait and give the ad­min­is­tra­tion room to ne­go­ti­ate.

A group of 10 Demo­crat­ic com­mit­tee chairs, in­clud­ing John­son, Fein­stein, and Lev­in, sent a let­ter to Re­id this week ar­guing that “new sanc­tions would play in­to the hands of those in Ir­an who are most eager to see ne­go­ti­ations fail” and point­ing to an in­tel­li­gence-com­munity as­sess­ment that new sanc­tions would un­der­mine pro­spects for a suc­cess­ful com­pre­hens­ive agree­ment with Ir­an.

“Sen­at­or Re­id is go­ing to do what he can to pro­tect the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said a former seni­or Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aide, who said not to ex­pect the bill to ad­vance “any time soon.”

Law­makers push­ing the bill ar­gue that the num­ber of sup­port­ers is grow­ing and mo­mentum is on their side. To wit, 14 mem­bers is­sued a joint state­ment in sup­port of ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions last month.

Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., said he ex­pects the num­ber of sup­port­ers to grow, build­ing pres­sure on Re­id.

“It has sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact when you see that many bi­par­tis­an sup­port­ers; there is go­ing to be enorm­ous pres­sures on Sen­at­or Re­id to sched­ule a vote, and we are go­ing to keep push­ing him,” Mc­Cain said.

The bill ap­pears in­ten­ded to add the force of law to the in­ter­im agree­ment that the ad­min­is­tra­tion reached with Ir­an and the so-called P5+1 na­tions — Rus­sia, China, the United King­dom, France, and Ger­many — last month. It gives the ad­min­is­tra­tion an ini­tial six months to ne­go­ti­ate, which can be ex­ten­ded for up to a year. The sanc­tions would kick in if Ir­an vi­ol­ated the agree­ment dur­ing that time or if a fi­nal agree­ment failed to res­ult in “the com­plete and veri­fi­able ter­min­a­tion of Ir­an’s il­li­cit nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram.”

“Right now it’s very clear we are all in the corner of hop­ing we will get Ir­an to ne­go­ti­ate an agree­ment where they will dis­mantle their in­fra­struc­ture that al­lows a break­out for nuc­le­ar weapons. That’s our ob­ject­ive,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who is co­spon­sor­ing the bill, in an in­ter­view.

“This le­gis­la­tion makes it clear — I think it’s very sim­il­ar to what the pres­id­ent said — that if Ir­an does not com­ply with the agree­ment, that not only will the sanc­tions be re­im­posed that are be­ing eased, but they can ex­pect to be fur­ther isol­ated.”

The bill ap­pears to of­fer a broad cross-sec­tion of law­makers with ways to ad­vance dif­fer­ing polit­ic­al aims.

Mem­bers who want to stick it to the ad­min­is­tra­tion can claim they did so, while oth­ers can ar­gue they are simply lay­ing out the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s terms for an agree­ment and sup­port­ing its dip­lo­mat­ic ef­forts.

Cardin said his goal was to en­sure that the ne­go­ti­ations with Ir­an lead to dis­mant­ling its nuc­le­ar-weapons cap­ab­il­it­ies.

Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., said the bill is im­port­ant be­cause it lays out what Con­gress wants to see in a fi­nal agree­ment with Ir­an, with one united voice.

Oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans like Kirk, Mc­Cain, and Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida said they were fo­cused on see­ing the bill pass, with Kirk de­clar­ing it a form of “in­sur­ance policy” against Ir­an.

Even sen­at­ors sup­port­ing sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion who have not signed on as co­spon­sors said they ex­pect it to send a strong mes­sage to the Ir­a­ni­ans.

“I hope it has a huge im­pact, be­cause I hope we are able to pass it and we are able to put some sig­ni­fic­ant sanc­tions on and let the Ir­a­ni­ans know that Con­gress means busi­ness,” said Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss, R-Ga., who is not an ori­gin­al co­spon­sor of the bill. “I think the ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment or the deal, so to speak, that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has laid out is very weak; I’m not sure that it will ever come to fruition, but I want the Ir­a­ni­ans to know that Con­gress is really ser­i­ous about this.”

Some ana­lysts said that the le­gis­la­tion was writ­ten “clev­erly” to co­di­fy the terms of the in­ter­im agree­ment the ad­min­is­tra­tion has laid out.

“It doesn’t pass any new sanc­tions un­less cer­tain con­tin­gen­cies are met,” said Mat­thew Kroenig, a seni­or fel­low with the At­lantic Coun­cil.

“I don’t think it will scuttle talks. Ir­an will scream bloody murder, I’m guess­ing. But I don’t think it’s enough to back out.”

Oth­er ana­lysts said that law­makers’ ef­forts could back­fire, end talks with Ir­an, and prove the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s worst fears true.

“A meas­ure like this is es­sen­tially throw­ing a life­line to Ir­an’s hard-liners, who have been very crit­ic­al of the deal and are look­ing for any op­por­tun­ity to scuttle it,” said Mat­thew Duss, a policy ana­lyst with the lib­er­al Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress.

“It ser­i­ously un­der­mines the talks.”¦ In­tro­du­cing this bill puts us on a path to one of two very neg­at­ive out­comes: war, or Ir­a­ni­an nuc­le­ar weapons.”

What We're Following See More »
WHITE HOUSE URGING QUICK SENATE ACTION
John King Gets Nod for Education Secretary
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.

Source:
162,000 SIGNATURES SO FAR
Sanders Supporters Begin to Petition Superdelegates
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures. Related: At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver notes that in 2008, Clinton had a 154-50 superdelegate advantage over President Obama when New Hampshire voted. But “by the time Clinton ended her campaign on June 7, 2008, Obama had nearly a 2-to-1 superdelegate advantage over her,” owing in part to many pledged delegates who switched their support to Obama.

Source:
REGULAR ORDER
Ryan Pitching the Importance of Passing a Budget Today
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”

Source:
HEADED TO PRESIDENT’S DESK
Trade Bill Would Ban Imports Made with Slave Labor
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.

Source:
TRUMP UP TO 44%
Sanders Closes to Within Seven Nationally in New Poll
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).

Source:
×