A bipartisan group of 14 senators vowed on Thursday to craft a new set of sanctions on Iran, reports Politico.
The senators said that it is a top priority of theirs to slap a new round of economic penalties on the Islamic Republic sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday, when it will be clear whether Secretary of State John Kerry can strike a deal with Iran over scaling back its nuclear program.
“A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability. We will work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible,” the senators said in a statement quoted by Politico.
The group includes top members of the Senate leadership, such as Democratic Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican whip John Cornyn of Texas.
The other senators in the group are: Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
The statement follows a floor speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday morning in which he said he will support a bill that broadens penalties on Iranian oil exports and other “strategic sectors of the Iranian economy.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also urged new Iran sanctions.
It is yet unclear what the administration will do with the latest declaration. The Obama administration has been waging a very aggressive campaign to convince senators to wait before approving harsher sanctions on Iran.
Several weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden joined other top officials from the Obama administration in a meeting with Reid and other senior Senate Democrats as the White House lobbies against additional punitive measures against Iran at this time. Biden met again with senators on Wednesday, saying that any sanctions relief the U.S. would offer to Iran during talks in Geneva would be “modest and temporary.”
On Tuesday, Obama himself met with lawmakers and told them that Iran would make progress in its ability to build a nuclear weapon if there is no diplomatic deal to halt or roll back its nuclear program.
The Senate Banking panel has been considering whether to act on legislation hitting Iran’s oil industry. The House overwhelmingly passed such legislation in July, but the White House has been urging Senate Democrats to hold off while multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program continue.
Meanwhile, the latest round of talks in Geneva has reportedly hit a snag, as Iran said Thursday that "no progress" was made towards clinching a long-awaited breakthrough deal.
Both sides stressed however that the talks in Geneva were detailed, serious and constructive.