Sen. Mark S. Kirk said Tuesday he would introduce an amendment to the budget resolution recommending new sanctions on Iran if no nuclear deal is reached.
“It basically recommends a new round of sanctions,” the Illinois Republican told reporters, noting that Democrats had asked to wait until today’s date, March 24, to hold a floor vote on a sanctions bill he and Sen. Robert Menendez sponsored.
Kirk scoffed at the White House's plea for more time, saying it amounted to "a kind of a version of 'the Ayatollah stole my homework.'"
A senior congressional staffer told CQ Roll Call the non-binding amendment would come up during the budget vote-a-rama later this week. “What Sen. Kirk will be doing is laying down amendments that reiterate policy from Kirk-Menendez that if Iran cheats, it should face consequences.”
Under the rules for the budget, any senator can offer budget amendments and get a vote. Scores of votes are expected.
The staffer, who was not authorized to talk to the media, said the amendment has the support of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "None of this is going to be binding. These are sort of like test votes. If people can't get behind it when it sort of is a vote on principle, how are they going to get behind it when it is a vote in practice?"
The Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill would order the gradual imposition of new economic punishments on Iran if no final nuclear agreement is reached with the country by the end of June. Menendez, D-N.J., and 11 other Democrats previously said they would support a floor vote on the bill if it took place after March 24.
However, the White House is understood to have lobbied Democrats for more time before any votes on Iran legislation are held, arguing that congressional interference at this late stage in multinational negotiations would tank the chances of reaching a nuclear deal. President Barack Obama has promised to veto the bill regardless of when a vote on it takes place.
Adam Sharon, spokesman for Menendez, said the senator is focused on an April 14 committee markup of a separate bill he co-sponsored with Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn. Menendez feels that at this time the measure, which would give Congress the authority to approve any Iran nuclear deal, is the best vehicle for congressional action on Iran, Sharon said.
Correction, 7:28 p.m. A previous version of this story misstated the number of senators who signed onto the Menendez letter to the White House. There were 11.
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