By John Hudson
January 9, 2014
In a surprise development in Congress, a long-building effort to impose new sanctions on Iran has reached a near-filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Despite months of White House lobbying against the bill, 58 Senators now support the so-called “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act,” according to a Senate aide close to the process.
The bill’s bipartisan backing puts Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in an awful bind. Either he defies President Obama and allows a vote on the legislation. Or he goes along with the White House — and takes on the majority of his fellow senators.
“The only way you can get a vote is if Reid allows it,” said a separate Senate aide. “Hence the question … Does Reid support sanctions — yes or no?”
A spokesman for Reid did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In December, the White House threatened to veto the legislation for fear that it would implode last November’s interim nuclear deal in Geneva. At that time, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told Time magazine “the entire deal is dead” if Congress passses the legislation. Now Reid, who said last month he would eventually bring the issue to a vote, is confronted with demands by the White House to bury it. On the flipside, Democratic allies and pro-Israel lobbyists are hounding him to put the legislation to a vote.
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