The announcement that Senate Democrats were delaying a bill imposing new sanctions on Iran was described by the media as a victory for the President. Headlines blared, “Menendez Changes His Tune,” or “Menendez steps back from fight with Obama over Iran,” to give the impression that the New Jersey Democrat was pulling away from pressing Obama over his Iranian Negotiations. In actuality the opposite is true. Menendez’s move delays the vote, but does not change when new sanctions would take place, it places a deadline on the Administration, and along the way it picks up Democratic support for imposing sanctions should a “framework” not be reached by the March deadline already imposed by Iran and U.S. agreement.
A letter sent by ten Senators of the President’s own party not only put more pressure on Obama but indicated the Senate had around 64 of the 67 votes needed to override an Obama veto on new sanctions.
In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24,” Menendez wrote, “After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.”
Along with Menendez, Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (NY), Richard Blumenthal (CT.), Gary Peters (MI.), Bob Casey Jr. (PA), Ben Cardin (MD), Chris Coons (DE), Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Debbie Stabenow (MI) signed the letter. When you add the 54 GOP members it brings the pro-sanctions forces to about 64 of the 67 needed to overturn a presidential veto. Not all of the GOP Senators will support the new sanctions so assume that number is closer to 61 or 62 members. On the other hand there are three Democratic Party senators who were not on the letter but cosponsored a sanctions bill during the last congress; Gillibrand (NY), Booker (NJ), and Bennett (CO). Those three are also likely to support such a bill.
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Keep in mind, the Menendez never imposed new sanctions until July so the timing of sanctions did not change because of the Menendez delay. But in the end, it was a great way for Menendez to show Obama the power of the cards in his hand and put new pressure on the Obama team.
Although it will not be brought up for a vote by the full Senate, the Menendez sanctions bill will proceed in committee and is expected to be voted out of the Banking Committee. It is expected to be “marked-up” and voted out of committee and on the the floor this Thursday where it will wait for the late March full Senate vote.
The bottom line is despite the fact the mainstream media made the Menendez letter a victory for the appeaser-in-chief, it was in fact warning across the bow to a White House seen as desperately seeking to make a deal, whether it was good for the country or not.