Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013

December 19, 2013
December 20, 2013
Placed on Senate calendar

This bill would increase and expand sanctions on Iran should it violate the 6-month interim deal of 11/2013, as well as subsequent extensions, or if Iran allowed the deal to expire without acquiescing to a long-term follow-up agreement.

New measures would include, but not be limited to, an expansion of the list of sanctioned Iranian individuals, new sanctions on Iranian ports and shipping, and amendments to strengthen previous sanctions laws. This last stipulation would threaten to ban international banks and companies from U.S. markets if they help Iran export oil.

If a final agreement were reached, this bill would require the president to certify annually that Iran was upholding the deal. If the president were unable to do so, the expanded sanctions regime would be reenacted with full force. Furthermore, the bill would dictate a list of specific requirements to be included in any final agreement, including the verifiable dismantlement of Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and facilities. It would also require negotiators to consult with relevant congressional cmtes. on those requirements.

One noteworthy inclusion in the non-binding ‘findings’ section of the bill would declare that the U.S. should ‘stand with Israel’ and provide it with diplomatic, military, and economic support if Israel launched a preventive strike against Iran.

According to the 6-month interim deal with Iran, if the U.S. imposed new sanctions within the 6-month interim period, then Iran would be free of its commitment to halt enrichment. In accordance with that provision, the Obama administration lobbied Congress to abstain from introducing or passing new sanctions legislation, and this bill in particular. The administration made clear that it would veto any new sanctions bill that was passed. In keeping with the administration’s stance, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to allow a vote on a sanctions amendment to the NDAA (S. 1197 of 6/20/13) and Chairman of the Senate Banking Cmte. Tim Johnson (D-SD) decided not to bring a new sanctions bill up in his cmte. Also, 10 Senate cmte. chairs signed a public letter expressing opposition to the bill. Ultimately, Reid did not schedule a vote on this bill in the first session of the 113th Congress.

Despite the Obama administration’s efforts, the bill became a vehicle for bipartisan support of new sanctions on Iran in the Senate. Considering the overwhelming support for new sanctions in the House (see H.R. 850 of 2/27/13), it was widely expected to be passed on to the president if it passed in the Senate. So many senators cosponsored the bill within weeks of its introduction that speculation in the media abounded on the possibility of it passing with enough support to override the president’s veto (a two-thirds majority vote).

This bill was strongly supported by AIPAC. Throughout 1/2014, the front page of AIPAC’s website greeted visitors with a link to a dedicated page explaining the group’s support for this bill. That section included a 3-minute video, explaining the bill’s purpose. Furthermore, during Congress’s holiday recess, AIPAC kept a running tally on its website of Senators who had pledged to cosponsor or oppose the bill.

On 2/4/2014, 42 Republican Senators signed a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urging him to allow a vote on this bill. Notably, the bill’s principal sponsor, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), did not sign onto the letter. In a move widely viewed as a retreat from growing partisanship in the sanctions debate, Menendez gave a one-hour speech on the Senate floor (2/6/14) defending the bill and called for a delay before holding a floor vote. The same day, AIPAC released a statement supporting the delay.

Following the Republican victories in the 11/4 midterm elections and the 7-month extension of the P5+1’s negotiations with Iran, Menendez said on 11/24 that he would reintroduce a similar bill in the 114th Congress (see S. 269 of 1/27/15

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