Back From the Brink on Iran Sanctions

There’s some good news from Congress other than its success in avoiding another government shutdown: it seems prospects for passage of preemptive Iran sanctions legislation, timed to sabotage negotiations, have dropped significantly just in the last week. Brother Benen sums it up:

A week ago, it was practically a foregone conclusion that such a bill would pass the House and Senate; the question is whether President Obama’s veto could be overridden. Just of the last few days, however, the odds of such a bill even reaching the president’s desk have dropped unexpectedly.

The Hill, for example, reported yesterday that House Republicans “are moving away from a proposal to adopt new Iran sanctions.” House Democrats who were otherwise sympathetic to the idea became “irked” by GOP political tactics “and the idea appears to have been at least temporarily shelved.”

In the Senate, meanwhile, BuzzFeed reports that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, has “proposed the idea of scheduling a vote on Iran sanctions six months from now, after the interim nuclear agreement has run its course, instead of voting on sanctions right now.”

In other words, lawmakers could at least wait to see if the talks bear fruit before sabotaging them in advance. Corker’s idea isn’t ideal – it would reportedly lock in the Senate for a vote on July 21, exactly six months after the current deal is implemented, regardless of the status of the diplomacy – but in the larger context it suggests even sanctions supporters are starting to see value in waiting.

What happened to change the momentum on this subject? Earlier this week Greg Sargent found evidence that even many supporters of the bill calling for new sanctions think a vote right now would be very poorly timed. They prefer to view themselves as “keeping up the pressure” on the Obama administration to take a tough bargaining posture, rather than blowing up negotiations in order to demand the unattainable goal of a completely nuclear-free Iran and thus move down the path to war.

Who knows, the noise a lot of us asked for may have made a difference, too. But I wouldn’t let up just yet.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.