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Senate Votes 99-0 to Extend Sanctions on Iran

The Senate voted 99-0 on Thursday to extend the Iran Sanctions Act for another ten years.

The vote follows a 419-1 vote in the House of Representatives last month. The bill will now go the president for his signature.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that it was necessary to extend the legislation “given Iran’s continued pattern of aggression and the country’s persistent efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region.”

“We can ill afford to allow sanctions that deter and impede Iran’s development of conventional weapons of mass destruction to expire,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who supported the nuclear deal with Iran last year, said on the floor of the Senate.

“We need this legal framework to address any Iranian violations of the deal so that sanctions can be rapidly put in place if necessary,” added Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who also supported the nuclear deal. Iran has already been found to have twice violated its limits on heavy water, a component that can be used to make a nuclear weapon.

Iranian government officials have claimed that extending the law would constitute a violation of the deal, a charge Peters called “not true.”

Benham Ben Taleblu, a senior analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has written that Iran’s claims that extending existing sanctions violates the deal are part of a “broader strategy” to extract more sanctions relief than it already negotiated.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest was non-committal when asked whether President Barack Obama would sign the legislation. “The administration continues to retain substantial authorities that can be used to impose financial sanctions on the Iranian regime.” However, Earnest said, “There are plenty of times where the president has signed into law bills that Congress has passed that we’re not sure are entirely necessary.”

The Washington Free Beacon reported that members of the administration, including Secretary of State John Kerry, “made a final push in recent weeks to convince lawmakers to abandon the new sanctions.”

President Obama has up to ten days exclusive of Sundays to veto the bill, after which it automatically becomes law.

In his floor speech, Peters also criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for withholding important details from its reporting on Iran’s nuclear program, a concern he shared in an open letter to Obama earlier this year. A former deputy director-general of the IAEA and a nuclear proliferation think tank have expressed similar concerns in recent weeks.

[Photo: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell / YouTube ]