Positive news on the sanctions front, maybe

Bob Menendez may be backing off of his plan to kill the Iran talks:

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is considering delaying the introduction of his Iran sanctions bill until March, which would give him more time to gather support from wavering Democrats, according to a recent interview.

The bill, co-authored with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would impose new sanctions if international negotiators do not reach a deal with Iran to roll back its nuclear program by the June 30 deadline, with a waiver if a deal is close.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s done lying about the issue:

“If sanctions aren’t in place, his only options will be a military option, or to accept a nuclear-armed Iran,” Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Star-Ledger. “By having sanctions in place, you have a third way.”

However, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it passes before then, concerned that the bill would derail the talks. Menendez that putting sanctions in place takes months, so having sanctions ready to go would give the president options.

That’s slick, pretending that there aren’t already plenty of sanctions in place against Iran that will continue to be in force should the talks break down, then claiming it would take “months” to put new sanctions in place, as though whatever the Senate would pass wouldn’t just build upon the existing sanctions architecture that’s already there.

Menendez’s apparent change of heart comes after some major movement on the part of wavering Democrats to signal that they would not be inclined to override President Obama’s promised veto of any additional sanctions measures. In particular, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a Kirk-Menendez co-sponsor, says she wants to give the talks more time before voting on the measure. If Gillibrand, who has every political reason in the world to back more Iran sanctions, isn’t firmly supporting a vote right now, it’s unlikely that Kirk and Menendez can muster the 2/3 majority needed to defeat a veto.

Assuming that Menendez sticks to his guns and can convince Kirk and the other Republicans that the votes aren’t there to override a veto right now, this will buy negotiators a crucial window that goes into March, when the two sides are supposed to have a political framework in place. If they actually have a framework in place by then, it’s unlikely that the votes to override will suddenly materialize, and if they don’t, well, then maybe the talks aren’t going anywhere anyway.


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