By Peter Weber
January 30, 2014
In mid-January it appeared that a bipartisan Senate bill threatening Iran with new sanctions was a foregone conclusion. Yes, President Obama opposed the legislation and promised to veto it, but supporters of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act strongly hinted that they had a veto-proof majority — and with 59 senators (43 Republicans and 16 Democrats) co-sponsoring the bill, that seemed eminently plausible.
They would only need eight more votes (and action in the House) to thwart Obama’s veto pen, and momentum appeared to be on their side.
If there is any momentum on the bill now, it’s on the other side. Obama reiterated his veto threat in the very public setting of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, saying that “for the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.” Jan. 20 marked the beginning of a six-month period of negotiations between the U.S., Iran, and five other world powers aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
The negotiations won’t be easy, and “any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action,” not trust, Obama said. But “if John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.”
After the speech, at least four Democratic cosponsors — Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Ben Cardin (Md.) — said they didn’t want to vote on the bill while negotiations are ongoing. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had already adopted that position earlier in the month.
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