The Senate will move to pass a 10-year extension of existing sanctions against Iran before disbanding for the year, leaving the grittier fight over expanding the scope of punitive measures against Tehran until next year.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters Wednesday that the Senate would tackle “just the straight extension” — either as a stand-alone bill, or attached to a must-pass spending measure — “and when we get back, we’ll do something that is much broader.”
The Senate had been juggling three proposals to extend the Iran Sanctions Act, which lays out energy, banking and defense-related restrictions over Iran’s nuclear and missile activities, and expires at the end of the year. One was an unchanged 10-year extension, another tied the extension to additional aid dollars for Israel, and a third, from Corker, included additional sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile tests, cyberespionage and theft, and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as a global prohibition on any dollar-denominated transactions with Iran.
The White House has argued that any extension of the ISA is unnecessary, and that the president already has the authority necessary to penalize Iran over aggressive moves falling outside the purview of the nuclear pact with the country struck last year. But the Obama administration has not yet threatened to veto an extension of the ISA.
Congress has been adamant that some extension of sanctions is necessary so that if Iran violates the nuclear pact, there are punitive measures to “snap back” against Tehran.
On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly passed a clean, 10-year extension to the ISA by a vote of 419 to 1, putting pressure on the Senate to follow suit. Senate Democrats favored a 10-year extension akin to the House’s measure.
Corker said the Senate would follow the House’s lead for now, explaining that he had attempted to push a broader package of sanctions because the need to come down harder on Iran is “something that so many people agree on.” Corker faulted the Obama administration for pressuring Democrats away from efforts to adopt additional limits against Tehran, but predicted that many would vote for expanded measures once President Obama is out of office.
“If you don’t have a president that’s pushing back on Democrats, they’re now free to express themselves,” Corker said. “They felt hamstrung, I think, before.”