US Sens. Kirk and Menendez Lead The Way on Iran Sanctions Vote
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
It is not often you find US Senators voting almost unanimously, as they did Thursday night, to approve sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank over the objections of the Obama Administration. Despite the White House opposition to these tougher sanctions, the votes casts made it likely the Senate has the votes to override a threatened Presidential veto of the change in policy over detention of terrorists. Credit that near unanimous tally to a bi-partisan amendment of the National Defense Appropriations Act co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The Defense appropriations measure will be reconciled with one pending in the House. See our post about Iran sanctions, here.
We have highlighted Sen. Kirk’s perseverance on sanctions against Iran over its nuclear weapons development. He began that effort several years earlier while serving as a Representative in the US House and a key member of the Iran Working Group pushing for an embargo against foreign refineries delivery of gasoline and diesel fuel to Iran.
On Wednesday, at a hearing on the Iran sanctions amendment, held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Menendez roundly criticized Obama Administration witnesses from Treasury and State Departments over fear that these latest sanctions would allegedly upset the world’s oil markets.
Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David S. Cohen, “warned that the wrong types of sanctions could raise global oil prices, benefiting Iran at the expense of Western economies.
"We are more likely to achieve cooperation ... if we approach this issue through an effort to coordinate action voluntarily rather than with the threat of coercion," he said.
Sen. Kirk responded to the Senate’s vote on the Amendment, “This is the right amendment, at the right time, sending the right message.”
Even the Washington Post took the Obama Administration to task in an editorial saying, “the President is no longer leading from behind on Iran. He’s just behind.” Jennifer Rubin in her Washington Post, Right Turn column,”Senate passes Iran sanctions; Obama objects (really)”, has provided us with a C-Span 3 video of Menendez castigating the Administration witnesses. This occurred at a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Watch it.
Note this excerpt from Rubin’s column :
Think about this: By [an almost unanimous] vote the Senate passed its most stringent Iran sanctions bill to date. The administration opposed it. The vote was on the amendment by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) The measure would: 1) Prohibit the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account on foreign financial institutions engaged in non-petroleum-related transactions with the Central Bank of Iran after 60 days; 2) Impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions, including central banks, engaged in petroleum-related transactions with the Central Bank of Iran after 180 days with 180-day special exemptions tied to the availability of non-Iranian oil on the market and a country’s significant reduction in purchases of Iranian oil; 3) Provide a humanitarian exception for food, medicine and medical devices; and 4) Provide the President with an unclassified (with classified annex, if necessary) national security waiver authority every 120 days.
[. . .]
Menendez reminds us that the Administration is not even using existing sanctions. (“You have been reluctant to sanction Chinese companies for energy sanctions when there is ample evidence that they are violating our laws, and there is precedence for us sanctioning Chinese companies for nuclear and weapons proliferation concerns. Even though we’ve given you the tools, you haven’t shown us the robust effort when the clock is ticking to use that which we have given you. So that causes us — that’s why 80 members of the Senate in a time in which it is very difficult to find bipartisan agreement — 80 members of the Senate have joined in our Iran/North Korea serious sanctions act.”)