President Barack Obama has strongly urged Senate Democrats to delay voting for any new sanctions against Iran until a six-month negotiation with the Tehran regime runs its course. His comments came during a two-hour meeting at the White House Wednesday evening.
"The president did speak passionately about a way to seize this opportunity that we have," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told reporters after the session. "If Iran isn't willing in the end to make the decisions necessary to make it work, he'll be ready to sign a bill to tighten those sanctions. But we've got to give this six months."
Among the dozen Democratic senators who are supporting a new round of economic penalties against Iran are Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York. They argue that Iranian leaders can't be trusted to live up to an interim six-month agreement to suspend Iran's nuclear program. The pro-sanctions Democrats say the threat of more sanctions would help persuade the Tehran regime to stop whatever nuclear weapons program it has.
But the president said approving more sanctions now, even if the measures wouldn't take effect unless the talks fail, would anger Iranian leaders and might cause them to break off the current negotiations on a long-term nuclear compromise. A sanctions bill is pending in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
Among the other topics which Obama discussed with the 55-member Democratic caucus were raising the minimum wage, immigration reform and improving education.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.