It was just a few weeks ago that the bipartisan bill on new Iranian sanctions looked to be gaining momentum. Shortly before Christmas, the legislation started in the Senate with 27 original co-sponsors. Within one day, that jumped to 34. A couple of weeks later, the bill had 48 supporters. Two days later, it was 54. One day after that, it was 59.
By Jan. 9, the question wasn’t whether the bill would pass the upper chamber; the question was whether White House lobbying could prevent it from garnering a veto-proof majority.
Three weeks later, the bill’s momentum has stalled. Indeed, instead of gaining new backers, the proposal is losing old ones.
A controversial Iran sanctions bill is losing steam in the Senate, where at least three of its own Democratic cosponsors are warning that pushing the legislation now could thwart delicate international negotiations.
“Now is not the time for a vote on the Iran sanctions bill,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said at a Wednesday event hosted by Politico.
Note, Coons isn’t just a co-sponsor, he threw his support to the bill on literally the first day.
And he’s not the only one. As we discussed yesterday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another co-sponsor, backed off the legislation while talking to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. “I did not sign it with the intention that it would ever be voted upon or used upon while we were negotiating,” the senator said, adding, “[W]e’ve got to give peace a chance here and we’ve got to support this process.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), another original co-sponsor, told the Huffington Post late yesterday, “After speaking with the President, I am comfortable giving him the additional time requested before this bill goes to the floor.”
For those hoping to at least give the international diplomatic talks a chance to succeed, all of the news is encouraging.
As for why the legislation is collapsing, it’s clear that the White House became very engaged on this issue – President Obama issued a rare State of the Union veto threat this week – which no doubt made a difference with wavering Democrats. Also, as I mentioned last week, a Senate staffer told me that the volume of calls on this increased recently, with progressive activists urging Democrats to wait.
Dave Weigel has some additional reporting on this, noting that the bill’s apparent failure came as a result of “a combination of hubris from the bill’s supporters and lobbying by its opponents.”