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Reid Continues to Hold Off on Iran Sanctions

Reid speaks with the media after the Democratic Senate luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Reid speaks with the media after the Democratic Senate luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., still isn’t budging on allowing votes on new Iran sanctions, despite bipartisan support.

“The one message the Iranians should [take] is that we are not going to allow them to get nuclear weapons,” Reid said, adding that chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction have told him to hold off on any action while talks continue toward a diplomatic solution.

One Democrat who has urged action, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and lead co-sponsor of a sanctions bill pending in the Senate, said he believes the existence of the bill helps the White House in negotiations with Iran.

“I think the proposition of the legislation, the mere fact of possibility of action is definitely strengthening the administration’s hand,” Menendez said.

He added, “What we have is a difference [over] tactic, although we share the same goal. And to be honest with you, it is the tactic that the Senate has promoted all along that has brought us to this point.”

The bill has 58 official co-sponsors, including 15 Democrats, but some supporters of the measure, including lead co-sponsor Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., have indicated that the bill has north of the 67 votes to override a veto.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he believes that the Senate should vote.

“We know there is a bipartisan majority for a new Iran sanctions bill by Sen. Kirk and Chairman Menendez, a majority that quite possibly could overturn a veto,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We believe we ought to have that vote. We are going to continue to press the majority leader to allow a vote on an issue that obviously enjoys the bipartisan majority here in the Senate.”

House Republican leaders meanwhile are considering bringing the Kirk-Menendez bill to the House floor for a vote in a bid to spur the Senate to act, while the White House has a full-court press on to kill the bill.

Menendez, Kirk and other supporters said that no Senator is expected to hold up the must pass omnibus spending bill over the Iran sanctions issue.

Failure to pass the omnibus could lead to another government shutdown and following the 16-day shutdown last October, neither Democrats or Republicans want that to happen.

“I don’t think so,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when asked about possible trouble passing the omnibus. “I think it’s too important.”

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