Two House Democrats are mobilizing their colleagues against a bill to slap more sanctions on Iran, circulating a letter that backs President Barack Obama's position that such a bill would jeopardize delicate nuclear negotiations.
The Huffington Post on Monday quoted spokespersons for Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and David Price (D-N.C.), who said they have more than 70 signatories on a letter urging Congress to "give diplomacy a chance."
The lawmakers also expect more Democrats to sign on, their offices said.
Under an interim agreement, Iran has agreed to halt most of its uranium enrichment in exchange for relief from international sanctions. Nuclear talks with several Western powers, including the U.S., continue.
The interim deal went into effect last week, and on Saturday, Iran received the first installment of $4.2 billion in frozen assets.
"A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided," the letter states, according to The Huffington Post.
"Iranian hard liners may ultimately obstruct a meaningful permanent agreement, but Congress should not give them a pretext for doing so," said Doggett in a statement quoted by the website.
"The support for this letter from a broad and growing coalition of more than 70 Members sends a strong signal that Democrats stand for peace and diplomacy," he added.
The letter comes as a new sanctions bill has been gaining momentum in Congress in recent weeks. 59 of the 100 senators, including 16 of Obama's fellow Democrats, signed on as co-sponsors to it. The bill that would impose new restrictions on Iran if talks on a permanent deal falter.
The House voted overwhelmingly for a much harsher sanctions bill in July, but House Republicans have floated the possibility of voting on the Senate legislation as a way to pressure the upper chamber. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, urged House Democrats to vote against that bill at a private White House meeting in January, reported The Huffington Post.
The Doggett-Price letter represents a more public effort by House Democrats to undermine the sanctions push, the report said, noting that the Senate bill has stalled. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has repeatedly declined to say when it might be voted on.
The push against new sanctions was joined by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the weekend.
Clinton, who leads the pack among potential Democratic presidential contenders for 2016, said in a January 26 letter to Democratic Senator Carl Levin, "Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution."