BuzzFeed reported Friday that the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act – Senate legislation that would impose sanctions on Tehran should negotiations over its nuclear program fail – had secured  a veto-proof majority and was in fact “well above 67 [votes],” per a Senate aide who spoke to the outlet. CNN’s Jim Sciutto had earlier cited  a Senate source pegging the number of supporters at 77, a figure just one less than the number of known Republican supporters plus the number of reported Democratic supporters  (forty four and thirty four, respectively).
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) January 10, 2014 
The Washington Post noted however  that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) does not seem to have plans “to allow a vote on any proposal in the near future.” On Friday Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the authors of the legislation – described the bill  as a “diplomatic insurance policy.” Menendez cataloged Iranian behavior since the announcement of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), which was designed to freeze Iran’s program: continued Iranian progress on its plutonium production facility, continued Iranian progress on its next-generation uranium enrichment centrifuges, and continued Iranian progress on its ballistic missile program. Menendez also noted that Iranian negotiators had already once walked out of negotiations since the JPA was announced.
Opponents of prospective sanctions against Iran argue that sanctions are like a spigot — easy to turn on and easy to turn off. But the story of sanctions, while effective, is more complicated. Passing anything in Congress takes time. Writing regulations and implementing sanctions takes even longer, and enforcement of sanctions is an ongoing process.
The Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, a bill with bipartisan support in the Senate, guarantees immediate additional sanctions if Iran breaches its diplomatic commitments. The legislation endorses the Obama administration’s efforts and the Joint Plan of Action achieved in November. It supports continued negotiations, gives the administration a year of flexibility to secure a comprehensive agreement, respects the sanctions relief Iran is set to receive and prevents any new sanctions from taking effect while good-faith negotiations are underway. If the Iranians abide by their commitments, they’ll receive the economic relief they desperately want.
[Photo: SenatorMenendezNJ / YouTube ]