Bob Menendez, a leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, agreed to a two month delay on a bill that would potentially tighten sanctions against Iran if non-proliferation requirements are not met. In doing so, he seems to be demonstrating President Obama’s point (but played out in a Washington version) made in the State of the Union address, that pushing Iran too hard in an agreement might lead to a breakdown in diplomatic relations, with Iran blaming the U.S. for its pressure.
Senate Democrats, including Chuck Schumer of New York, who agreed to a delay in the bill until March 24, in an analogous fashion, are implying that the best way to avoid a Presidential veto of the bill is to take some of the heat off of President Obama by extending the time frame. The senators who agree with the bill say that they would only pursue a vote if there was no “agreement on political framework” by March 24.
Senator Menendez said the purpose of the deal was “to give the President space that he wanted and not to have any excuses for an agreement not being achieved, ” according to the Financial Times.
The proposal of the bill and subsequent delay comes after a highly controversial move by House Speaker John Boehner to invite Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about Iran. The visit comes close to an election period in Israel, and Democrats and some Republicans criticize Boehner for not consulting with the White House first. Netanyahu has often discussed the dangers of an Iran nuclear program to Israel, and Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., urged the Israeli PM to cancel the visit “so as not to cause a rift with the American government. The behavior the last few days created the impression of a cynical political move, and it could hurt our attempts to act against Iran.”