Key Dems Defy Obama with New Sanctions Bill; Veto Threat Soon Follows

WASHINGTON -- The White House has tried every manner of lobbying, pressure and procedural tactics to keep Congress from moving forward on new sanctions against Iran as nuclear talks move ahead.

It didn't work, though press secretary Jay Carney vowed that the executive branch will try to annihilate the new bill as it moves through the legislative branch.

The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act was introduced today by more than a quarter of the Senate. The bipartisan legislation proposes prospective sanctions against Iran's petroleum, engineering, mining and construction sectors should the regime violate the interim Joint Plan of Action agreed to in Geneva or should Iran fail to reach a final agreement with the P5+1.

The bill was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and was co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

“Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table,” said Menendez. “The Iranians last week blamed the administration for enforcing sanctions; now, they criticize Congress. The burden rests with Iran to negotiate in good faith and verifiably terminate its nuclear weapons program. Prospective sanctions will influence Iran’s calculus and accelerate that process toward achieving a meaningful diplomatic resolution.”

"The American people rightfully distrust Iran's true intentions and they deserve an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception during negotiations,” Kirk said. “This is a responsible, bipartisan bill to protect the American people from Iranian deception and I urge the Majority Leader to give the American people an up or down vote."

Blunt stressed that the bill allowed the administration time to arrive at an agreement and verify results, but the White House has adamantly maintained that sanctions legislation of any kind would irk Iran too much and drive them away from the negotiating table.

“Despite the White House’s opposition, many of my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that we must be more aggressive in stopping Iran from developing its nuclear weapons capabilities,” said Blunt, who is one of three senators to serve on both the defense authorizing and appropriations committees.

“If Iran has not made significant progress towards their determination that they will never pursue nuclear weapons at the end of the six-month interim period, this bipartisan legislation rightly calls for more robust sanctions."

At today's press briefing, Carney said "we’ve been in regular, very direct conversations with members of Congress on this subject, and have made very clear to them that we do not believe now is the time to pass any additional new sanctions through Congress."

"With regards to this particular measure, we don't think it will be enacted. We certainly don't think it should be enacted," Carney continued. "And the reason why it should not and does not need to be enacted is because if Iran does not comply with its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, the preliminary agreement, or if Iran fails to reach agreement with the P5-plus-1 on the more comprehensive agreement over the course of six months, we are very confident that we can work with Congress to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions against Iran. And it is our view that it is very important to refrain from taking an action that would potentially disrupt the opportunity here for a diplomatic resolution of this challenge."

"And so we don't want to see actions that would proactively undermine American diplomacy, which is what we fear that actions like passing new sanctions -- no matter how they're structured -- would be received, both by our international partners and obviously by Iran."

Carney promised that "if it were enacted, the president would veto it."

"The fact of the matter is this is not a debate about being for or against sanctions," he said. "There is no president in the history of this conflict with Iran who has been more aggressive in pursuing and enacting and building international consensus around sanctions than Barack Obama."