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Senate Democrats to Wait with Iran Sanctions Bill

Senate Majority Leader Reid wants to see how the Iran-West deal is played out before bringing new sanctions to a vote.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/15/2014, 4:10 AM

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Reuters

New American legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran was set back on Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would not bring it forward at this time.

According to The Hill, Reid said he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out” before moving forward on the legislation, referring to the nuclear deal between Iran and the West which will be implemented as of January 20.

Reid declined to say when he might bring the bill, which has 59 co-sponsors, to a vote.

“While [the negotiations] are going on and while the legislative process is working forward here, I'm going to sit and be as fair an umpire as I can be,” Reid said, according to The Hill.

The majority leader noted that 10 of his Democratic committee chairmen are opposed to the bill, which is sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

“There's 10 senators who — chairmen of committees here — have said they don't want anything done," he said. "We have now ... more than 55 are co-sponsoring this. So we're going to wait and see how this plays out.”

Under the agreement reached in Geneva in November, six major powers agreed to give Iran access to $4.2 billion in revenues blocked overseas if it carries out the deal, which offers sanctions relief in exchange for steps to curb the Iranian nuclear program.

A senior American official revealed that as part of the implementation of the deal, Iran will receive the first $550 million installment of the $4.2 billion as early as February 1.

Reid made the comments as President Barack Obama and the White House are pressuring Congress to hold off on any new sanctions measure while negotiations are underway between Iran and the six world powers on a permanent nuclear deal.

The Menendez-Kirk bill would implement new sanctions on Iran should Tehran violate the interim agreement or walk away from the negotiations.

On Monday, Obama said that now would not be the right time for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran. He has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it out of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, called Tuesday for Reid to hold a vote on the Iran bill.

“We know there is a bipartisan majority for new Iran sanctions bill by Sen. Kirk and Chairman Menendez, a majority that quite possibly could overturn the veto,” McConnell said, according to The Hill.

“We believe we ought to have that vote. We're going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the support of a very large bipartisan majority here in the Senate," he added.

Of the 59 co-sponsors, 16 are Democrats. But one of the Democratic co-sponsors said Tuesday he didn’t think a vote was needed on the bill if the negotiations were making progress.

“As long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.