Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) lashed out at his Republican colleagues on Thursday for sending him what he called a “partisan letter” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
The letter, sent to Reid on Tuesday by 42 Republican Senators and led by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), called on the Majority Leader to hold a vote on a new Iran sanctions bill that has stalled in the Senate after the White House and others argued it could lead to war with the Islamic Republic.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” Reid said, according to Politico. “It’s a serious, serious situation. For me to receive a totally partisan letter, we should not make this a partisan issue, and that’s what 42 Republicans have done. And I think it’s wrong.”
“Mr. Leader, you have already taken unprecedented steps to take away the rights of the minority in the Senate. Please do not take further steps to take away the rights of a bipartisan majority as well,” the letter says. “We urge you to schedule a vote during this work period on the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. It’s time for the elected representatives of the American people to have a say in the future of Iran’s nuclear weapons program — it’s time to vote.”
But the bill, and indeed the larger issue of Iran’s nuclear program, has become increasingly partisan. The measure originally received 13 Democratic co-sponors when it was first introduced in December, but support for the bill from the left has gradually tapered off as experts and Obama administration officials argued that it would derail negotiations with Iran.
But the letter’s Republican signatories will reportedly try parliamentary maneuvers to get the bill to the floor.
While numerous polls show the American public overwhelmingly support the recent interim nuclear agreement with Iran and a diplomatic approach to the issue, one Senator has teamed up with the progressive grassroots to push the Senate away from the sanctions bill.
“The interim agreement with Iran gives the United States and our allies a chance to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran without resorting to military action,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) says in a petition distributed by MoveOn.org this week. “The Senate should give negotiations the opportunity to succeed before voting on any additional sanctions or other efforts that would undermine diplomacy.”
The movement against sanctions was further bolstered by President Clinton, who reportedly urged Senate Democrats in a private meeting to delay the bill in order to give the negotiations a chance to succeed.
And Ryan Crocker, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, piled on in an op-ed on Wednesday. “After decades of mistrust, coming to a long-term agreement with Iran on its nuclear program will be an enormous challenge, he wrote. “Sanctions — many of which came from Congress — played an instrumental role in bringing Iran to the negotiating table, but economic pressure is only effective if it is part of a larger strategy. Without negotiations, sanctions do little to slow Iran’s nuclear program. Congress has played its role in that strategy; it’s time to let the negotiators play theirs.”