The Menendez-Kirk Iran sanctions bill passed its first test today with flying colors, receiving an 18-4 vote to move it out of the Senate Banking Committee.
The “no” votes came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Democrats who voted in favor of the bill were Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
Included in the final bill was an amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) expressing the sense of the Congress that it should vote on any final agreement about Iran’s nuclear program.
“Congress votes on treaties and trade agreements, including agreements that allow for the exchange of peaceful nuclear technology and material between the United States and other countries, such as Japan and India,” said Toomey.
“A final deal with Iran about its nuclear program is certainly no less important, and it deserves a public debate in Congress along with a vote. Our national security interest in preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons will extend far beyond the 18 months that will remain in this administration’s term by the time a deal may be reached,” he added. “Congressional approval would make a pact more durable, and the importance of such an agreement with Iran should have the national commitment that comes from a bipartisan consensus in Congress.”
In addition to Kirk and Menendez, original co-sponsors of the bill are Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Schumer, and Donnelly.
It would implement new sanctions on the Islamic Republic after the June 30 negotiations deadline if a deal is not reached.
The administration would be required to submit any agreement to Congress within five days. Congress would then have 30 days to review the pact before the president can give Iran any sanctions relief agreed to at the P5+1. There also would need to be certification that a sanctions waiver is in the national security interest of the U.S.
If Congress acts before the deadline, reimposition of sanctions could happen as early as August, specifically targeting the petroleum and financial sectors as well as regime officials.
Senate Dems co-sponsoring the bill want a vote after the March 24 framework deadline. That would put the congressional action after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress, and after the giant AIPAC conference in D.C. at which Bibi will also speak.