Volume. 11917

House Democrats mobilize against Iran sanctions bill
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TEHRAN – Two House Democrats are mobilizing their colleagues against a bill to slap more sanctions on Iran, circulating a letter that backs President Barack Obama's position that such a bill would jeopardize delicate nuclear negotiations, the Huffington Post reported on Sunday.

Spokespersons for Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and David Price (D-N.C.) said they have more than 70 signatories on a letter urging Congress to "give diplomacy a chance." The lawmakers also expect more Democrats to sign on, their offices said.

An interim deal between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - known as the P5+1 - came into force on January 20. This granted Iran a limited easing of the sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development.

"A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided," the letter states.

"The support for this letter from a broad and growing coalition of more than 70 Members sends a strong signal that Democrats stand for peace and diplomacy," said Doggett in a statement.

The letter was first reported by the Washington Post.

President Obama has pledged to veto a bill sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that would hit Iran with more sanctions unless it agrees to restrictions on its uranium enrichment that go beyond what the Western powers negotiated in the six-month deal. Iran's foreign minister has warned that additional sanctions would kill the deal.

The House voted overwhelmingly for a much harsher sanctions bill in July, but House Republicans have floated the possibility of voting on the Senate legislation as a way to pressure the upper chamber. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, urged House Democrats to vote against that bill at a private White House meeting in January.

The Doggett-Price letter represents a more public effort by House Democrats to undermine the sanctions push, which has been losing steam in recent days. The Senate bill has stalled. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has repeatedly declined to say when it might be voted on. At least five of its 15 Democratic co-sponsors have backed away from holding a vote for the moment. And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- far and away the Democrats' most popular choice for presidential candidate in 2016 -- came out against the bill in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Sunday.

"Since 'Legislation relating to Iran sanctions' remains on the weekly House Whip notice, support for this letter from a broad and growing coalition of members is important," said Doggett in another statement. "It sends a strong signal in support of diplomacy as an alternative to war. The letter remains open for additional members to join it."

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