Some Democratic supporters opposed to immediate floor consideration of more conditional sanctions against Iran are signing new legislation spearheaded by Sen. Mark S. Kirk.
The Illinois Republican's longtime partner on Iran, Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is on board with a new version of the bill set to be introduced before the Senate, according to a source familiar with the legislation.
The source said six other Democratic senators are expected to sign on when the bill is formally filed: Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan and Charles E. Schumer of New York.
They were seven of the Democrats who signed a letter sent earlier in the day to President Barack Obama providing for a March 24 deadline, after which they would support floor consideration of the enhanced sanctions, which would be conditional, taking effect if the current talks between the P5+1 nations and Iran fail to produce a desired result.
"We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline. This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility," the Democrats wrote. "We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability."
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to offer a timeline for floor consideration of the Iran sanctions measure, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said it would be a "surprise" if the Senate debates Iran policy before the date identified by the Democrats.
The Banking Committee is scheduled to take up the legislation Thursday. The new Kirk-Menendez bill comes just one day after a different group of senators offered a resolution supporting imposing additional sanctions if the Iran talks fail. That group of Democratic caucus members, led by Sens. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut and Dianne Feinstein of California, is promoting a diplomatic outcome.
"For those who agree that the sanctions bill in the Banking Committee is detrimental, this resolution provides an option in support of diplomacy. The resolution states that if negotiations fail or if Iran violates any agreement, then it is appropriate for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions," Feinstein said in a statement.
Murphy said in a brief interview Tuesday he was encouraged by the letter from Menendez and company, and he hoped for additional supporters, perhaps from both sides of the aisle.
"This has always been about a difference in tactics, not a difference in policy. So that's why, you know, Sen. Feinstein and I put out our resolution, and I think we'll get more co-sponsors as time goes on. I mean, we wanted to make it clear that we are virtually unanimous in supporting new sanctions if and when the negotiations fall apart," Murphy said. "The difference has only been about when we send the signal that we're moving forward on the new sanctions — now or after the negotiations break up."
Related: Obama's Big Win on Iran Sanctions Lindsey Graham Proposes Iran 'Alternative' Backed by Cameron, Obama Warns Congress of Iran The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.