Senate Democrats, Obama on Collision Course Over Iran

Democrats, Republicans united on Iran sanctions.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters about the economic consequences of a debt ceiling default, during a news conference at the Capitol, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.
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 During his presidency, President Barack Obama has seldom found himself up against members of his own party.

On Capitol Hill, a core contingency of Democrats has always stood behind the Democratic president. The majority of Democrats have pushed for his gun control agenda, gone to work to pass an immigration overhaul and defended the sloppy rollout of the president's signature health care law.

Yet, when it comes to whether or not to strengthen sanctions against Iran, the goodwill between senior Democrats and the White House may be wearing thin.

On Nov. 23, the White House negotiated a historic deal with Iran that relaxes sanctions against the country over a six-month period with the understanding that Iran curtails its nuclear weapons program.

[READ: Iran Deal Pits Obama Against Both Democrats and Republicans]

During that time, Iran will have access to roughly $7 billion in assets that had been frozen under sanctions, some of which have been in place for three decades. The U.S. and Iran will also continue negotiating a more specific and long-term deal.

Many Democrats and Republicans in the Senate worry, however, the White House's deal is too weak to force Iran to halt its nuclear program.

After the deal was reached, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed that the Senate would work to craft tougher sanctions by the end of the year.

Now, senior Democrats are spending their final week of the Thanksgiving break negotiating a bipartisan plan to pile on additional sanctions.

"It is very difficult to understand that at the height of our leverage, we have six countries negotiating and the world behind us, we negotiated a deal of this nature [without] a single centrifuge being dismantled, all of them spinning in perpetuity for the next six months," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said during an appearance on CBS Sunday.

[ALSO: Everything You Wanted to Know About Iran Sanctions But Felt Too Dumb to Ask]

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he would prefer the Senate work out a plan to bolster Iranian sanctions that would go into effect in six months if Iran refuses to cooperate with the U.S. He called the bipartisan Senate plan nothing more than an "insurance policy" to ensure Iran keeps its promise to stop its nuclear weapons program. Menendez argues the threat and implementation of crippling sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.

"I hope the deal can be successful, obviously diplomacy is something we want to see work, but we need to be ready to move forward," Menendez said about the additional sanctions the Senate is preparing to draft.

The White House doesn't see it that way.

The Obama administration has been adamant that the Senate back away from passing any more sanctions for fear that even the threat of sanctions could upset the carefully-crafted deal it reached with Iran.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the White House will reach out to lawmakers on the hill during the next week and urge them to abandon their pursuit of additional sanctions. Secretary of State John Kerry went as far as to send a video to each of his former colleagues asking them to give the new deal time to work before they rush to discredit it. And the White House has made key advisers including National Security Adviser Susan Rice available to answer senators' questions over the phone.

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