April 10 at 10:39 AM  
We have argued since the Iran framework was released that it is a charade, a non-deal to afford the president a news conference and to stave off congressional sanctions. Soon enough, the Iranians confirmed the lack of accord, and what they did not deride as a lie, able experts spotted as unresolved issues. Most issues of great importance (sanctions relief or reimposition, inspections, possible military dimensions, etc.) have not been resolved; judging from Iran’s public statements, the parties are miles apart on critical deal points.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author of the Menendez-Kirk sanctions legislation, agrees. He told me Thursday evening, “It’s increasingly obvious that Iran has not agreed to a framework for a final nuclear deal, especially with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his minions continuing to reject the terms in the U.S. factsheet on the framework. It looks like we’re on track either for a very, very bad deal or for the implosion of negotiations.” So what does Congress do? “We need to be prepared to impose crippling pressure on Iran if we want to get a better deal, one that Israel and our Gulf allies can truly live with, or if we want to be ready to implode Iran’s economy should Iran walk away from table,” he said. “That means congressional passage of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, which already cleared the Senate Banking Committee in a strong bipartisan 18-to-4 vote on January 29, 2015, and could be called up for a Senate floor vote anytime.”
The decision as to when it might be called up to the floor rests with the majority leader. Most of the public argument since the framework was announced has centered on Corker-Graham legislation, to concretize Congress’s right to weigh in on a final deal (if we ever have one). But the lack of mutual understanding and the prospect of still more concessions by the administration heighten interest in turning up the heat on Iran, and that means additional economic pressure. Twelve Democratic senators are on record as promising a vote: Robert Menendez (N.J.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Robert Casey (Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.). They stated:
We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline.  This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility.  We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability.
In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24. After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.  This deadline is the critical test of Iranian intentions.  We expect that your Administration will consult closely with Members of Congress in the coming months, and look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goal of reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability.
Menendez’s office did not respond to questions about whether senators intend to keep their word. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his staff have repeatedly said they would vote on Corker-Graham if there was a “deal” and on Menendez-Kirk if there was not. It surely seems we are in the latter situation. And in any event, there is nothing to preclude moving forward on both. McConnell this week indicated the first order of business was to “respond legislatively with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which is scheduled to be reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week.” But that need not be the only action.
Kirk’s point — that there is no agreed-upon framework — is hard to dispute.  His suggestion, namely that it is time for senators to keep their word and cast a vote, becomes more compelling as the phoniness of the framework becomes clearer. Certainly no one can argue that “all parameters of a comprehensive agreement” have been addressed, let alone agreed upon. So perhaps it is time to take a vote — let Democrats filibuster and make themselves accountable for carrying water for the administration — and send it over to the House. It would be the first sign of any spine from the United States since these disastrous negotiations began.