Vote Extending Iran Sanctions Nearly Unanimous

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate was nearly unanimous Thursday in approving a bill that will extend sanctions against Iran into the next decade.

An international nuclear agreement struck last year lifted sanctions against the country that have been in place since 1996, with the understanding Iran would cut down on its nuclear program.

If the Senate had not voted to extend the sanctions through 2026, they would have expired at the end of the year. Proponents of the legislation say it gives future presidents power to quickly reinstate sanctions should Iran not hold up its end of the bargain.

The bill cleared the Senate 99-0, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., abstaining.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., spoke about the importance of the measure shortly before the vote.

“The practical effect of the Iran nuclear agreement depends on our resolve,” Blumenthal said. “On our commitment to reliably and durably stop a nuclear armed Iran by using sanctions and other means if necessary. This measure should remove all doubt and dispel any question that we have the resolve and commitment to make sure that the Iran nuclear agreement is in force effectively.”

Conservatives have been especially critical of the Obama administration for negotiating the agreement, saying Iran is likely to cheat on the deal, pursuing a nuclear weapon while enjoying the economic benefits of sanctions relief.

Senate Republicans attempted to bring up a resolution on the Iran deal showing the chamber’s disapproval, but Democrats were able to block the vote, preventing political embarrassment for the president.

President-elect Donald Trump also made criticism of the agreement a point of his recent campaign, calling it a “disaster” and promising to tear it up to get a better deal.

But the bill approved Thursday was not nearly as controversial. The House passed the sanctions renewal earlier in November and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.