The Senate approved by voice vote a new round of Iranian sanctions, overcoming weeks of stalemate to approve the new constrictions of economic and diplomatic relations with the country.
Negotiators had hit an impasse last week after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) thought he had a deal but Republicans blocked it over language suggested by GOP Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) that would have barred military intervention.
“Any comprehensive policy that seeks to end Iran’s effort to acquire a nuclear weapon needs to convince the rulers in Tehran that their survival is in question. While sanctions are one part of convincing the Supreme Leader that the costs of pursuing this weapon outweigh any perceived benefit, Senate Republicans insisted that the Senate pass nothing less than the President’s commitment that all options are on the table, in order to prevent any contrary perception that silence on the use of force would have created,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. “The Senate has worked hard to improve our sanctions toward Iran, and this effort, combined with the sanctions of the European Union, should strengthen the hand of our own negotiators.”
Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), who led the GOP objections on the floor last week, expressed confidence a deal would get done.
Kyl, along with GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), wanted to make sure that any sanctions bill that was approved did not rule out military action. Though he also insisted that the language being negotiated would not be any sort of authorization now.
“Everybody knows that Republicans have been more robust in their view as to what should be done than some of our Democratic friends, though on Iran I would note that we’ve had pretty good bipartisan cooperation over the years about the kinds of sanctions we would like to see the administration pose,” Kyl said.
On the language that had been negotiated, Kyl added: “It specifically makes reference to military planning, as well as economic sanctions and defers to the president’s own statement about taking nothing off the table.”
“Nobody is declaring war here. We are simply saying that the need for military planning exists because no option can be taken off the table and clearly implies the potential in the way of military activities as well,” he said.
Graham applauded the final version of the bill.
“When the Senate failed to pass the sanctions bill last week, I was concerned that the legislation was sending a mixed message to Iran,” he said in a statement. “However, I am very pleased we were able to strengthen the language in the bill which now sends an unequivocal message to leaders in Iran. The bill clearly indicates that all options are on the table when it comes to stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability.”
Correction: May 21, 2012
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described how the vote was approved.