Several top members of the House of Representatives
are fighting for expanded sanctions on Iran, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) opposes any changes
to the bill currently before the Senate.
House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), has joined
with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) to
introduce a bill of Iran sanctions measures they want to see added to the Johnson-Shelby
Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012,
which is currently pending before the Senate. Reid has said
there is no time to debate or consider amendments to the
bill and wants to pass it as is. But Ros-Lehtinen, Sherman, and a slew of senators
including Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are
urging Reid to allow lawmakers to offer amendments that would strengthen the
Ros-Lehtinen and Sherman's bill, the Iran Financial Sanctions
Improvement Act, contains many of the sanctions
measures that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL),
who is recovering from a stroke, included in
his proposed amendment to the Johnson-Shelby bill. The
Ros-Lehtinen Sherman bill would expand financial sanctions to all Iranian
banks, authorize the president to sanction any entity that works with any
Iranian bank, expand sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran beyond oil, and
expand sanctions on the Iranian insurance sector.
"In particular, I urge Senate leadership
to allow a version of an amendment authored by Senator Kirk to be considered by
the Senate," Sherman said in Tuesday statement. "After the current district
work period the Senate should pass the toughest possible Iran legislation, and
it is critical that the Kirk-Sherman language be part of the bill when it
leaves the Senate."
Senators come back from their "state
work period" on April 16.
Last week, Ros-Lehtinen publicly
called on Reid to open up the Senate bill to amendments. The Senate GOP
leadership is also calling on Reid to allow limited amendments to the
Today, in a statement to The Cable, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) said he also supports the Kirk amendmnet.
" I support any
proposal, including the Kirk amendment, to tighten sanctions on Iran
that will contribute to preventing the regime from developing a nuclear
weapons capability - an urgent national security priority for the United
States," Berman said.
Other measures found in the Kirk
amendment were included by Reps. Ted
Deutch (D-FL) and Robert Dold
(R-FL) in a bill they introduced last week called the Iranian Energy
Sector and Proliferation Sanctions Act. That bill would expand energy-sector
sanctions on Iran by declaring the country a "zone of proliferation concern," thus
barring any businesses or service providers from dealing with the Iranian
petroleum sector in any way.
the Mullahs face an unprecedented level of economic pressure and international
isolation, now is the time to intensify this pressure," Deutch said in a
statement, referring to Iran's clerical leaders. "This legislation will put the
world on notice that Iran's entire energy sector is off limits so long as this
regime continues to defy the international community in pursuit of an illicit
nuclear weapons program."
December, the House passed another Iran sanctions bill, the Iran Threat Reductions Act, which was
sponsored by Ros-Lehtinen and Berman. That bill contains a host of sanctions,
including another piece of the Kirk amendment that stipulates the president
must investigate allegations of sanctions violations made by U.S. government
organizations such as the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional
Research Service, and the Energy Information Agency.
The Ros-Lehtinen Berman bill could be
combined with the Johnson-Shelby bill in a House-Senate conference, if and when
the Senate passes its bill. The language from these various other House bills
that seek to add more Iran sanctions into the mix could be added in conference,
but they have a much better chance of becoming part of the final law if they
are added to the Senate bill as part of an amendment and through a vote.
Senator Reid's office told The Cable that despite the growing
number of lawmakers calling for votes on measures to amend the Johnson-Shelby
bill, he has no plans to alter his position.
"Sounds like enough
House members to round out a research document from a Republican office like
Senator Kirk's, but not enough to change Senator Reid's stance on this issue,"
said Reid's Communications Director Adam
The Obama administration has no position on the Johnson-Shelby
bill and no position on the Kirk amendment, a senior
administration official told The Cable. Kirk's office is hoping that by the time the Senate gets
back to town, Reid will decide to open up the bill to debate.
"Senator Kirk remains committed to a bipartisan
process that would allow Democrats and Republicans to come together to
strengthen our sanctions against Iran," said Kirk's spokesperson Kate Dickens.