One of the co-sponsors of a Senate bill to place new sanctions on Iran said on Tuesday night that he has withdrawn his support for the bill and said it should not come to a vote.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, praised the diplomatic approach his administration has taken with Iran in freezing its nuclear program and offering a historic chance at reaching a final deal. “The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible,” he said, but added, “let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”
When asked to respond to Obama’s veto threat after the speech, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — who signed on to co-sponsor the new Senate Iran sanctions bill in December — said he only lent his support for the bill to help the president, but now he thinks it should be shelved.
“I did not sign it with the intention that it would ever be voted upon or used upon while we’re negotiating,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. “I signed it because I wanted to make sure the president had a hammer if he needed it and showed him how determined we were to do it and use it if we had to. But with that being said we’ve got to give peace a chance here and we’ve got to support this process.”
Manchin later said that he hopes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) does not bring the bill to the floor for a vote. “That’s not the right thing to do,” he said. “I hope we can have an adult conversation on this, all of us to come together to give peace a chance to survive.” Watch the clip:
The White House, top lawmakers, and other experts have been campaigning against the new sanctions bill, arguing that it risks derailing the negotiations with Iran and solving the nuclear crisis peacefully. While the sanctions bill — which is being spearheaded by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) — was originally touted as bipartisan, Democrats have not signed on en masse. Indeed, Manchin is the second co-sponsor to back away from full support as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said earlier this month that it should not come to a vote.
It appears that momentum to pass the bill, let alone bring it to the floor for a vote, has vanished as Reuters reported on Tuesday that congressional hawks are looking for other ways to address the Iran issue. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) confirmed that sentiment. “I would say based on the story this morning, based on comments I’m getting on the floor, the momentum has slowed in terms of bringing it forward,” King said at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday. “So if I had to bet right now I would think that it probably won’t come to the floor any time soon.”
The Huffington Post reports that Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is now officially the third Senate Democratic co-sponsor of the Iran sanctions to back away from it. “Now is not the time for a vote on the Iran sanctions bill,” he said on Wednesday. “I think, to the extent that we simply excite the distance and the tension between the Congress and administration on this, that doesn’t serve our shared view of making certain that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapons capability.”
HuffPo adds that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), also a co-sponsor of the bill, has deferred to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the issue. “Senator Cardin wants to see negotiations with Iran succeed. As for timing of the bill, it is and has always been up to the Majority Leader,” said a spokesperson.