After two attempts to pass Senate legislation that would create stricter economic sanctions in Iran were blocked by Republican lawmakers, the bill cleared the Senate unanimously Monday–with concessions.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Tea Party freshman from Kentucky, first blocked a vote on the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act in late March, protesting that the bill did not explicitly state that the sanctions did not amount to a declaration of war. He subsequently told Human Events that he did so because he believed America’s service members should not be sent into any conflict lightly or haphazardly, and stressed that he would have voted for the sanctions if he had been permitted to submit an amendment making the distinction clear.
“I didn’t hold (the bill) up,” he said. “I just asked to add one amendment.”
On Friday, passage of the sanctions bill failed again as Paul renewed his objection and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said fellow Republicans needed more time to examine the wording of the bill.
The final version, approved Monday by a voice vote, included Paul’s amendment and would implement punishing sanctions on the national Iranian oil and tanker companies if they are found to have dealings with the Iran Revolutionary Guards. It also makes clear that all options, including military action, remain on the table if Iran continues to present a threat.
Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley said “Sen. Paul is pleased to see his amendment accepted and that the version of the bill passed included his language that ‘Nothing in this Act or any amendments made by this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria.”
Those with long memories will recall the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964, which was used to deepen America’s military involvement in Vietnam.
In a release, McConnell praised his colleagues for passing tough and carefully crafted legislation that would continue to hold the Iranian government to account.
“Any comprehensive policy that seeks to end Iran’s effort to acquire a nuclear weapon needs to convince the rulers in Tehran that their survival is in question. While sanctions are one part of convincing the Supreme Leader that the costs of pursuing this weapon outweigh any perceived benefit, Senate Republicans insisted that the Senate pass nothing less than the President’s commitment that all options are on the table, in order to prevent any contrary perception that silence on the use of force would have created,” he said in a statement. “The Senate has worked hard to improve our sanctions toward Iran, and this effort, combined with the sanctions of the European Union, should strengthen the hand of our own negotiators.”
The House and Senate must now reconcile differences in their versions of passed sanctions legislation before the bill goes to President Obama for signing. He is expected to sign the measure.