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Senate Passes Iran Sanctions 99-0, Sen. Bernie Sanders Only No-Show

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to extend economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran for 10 years, 99-0, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) the lone senator missing Thursday’s vote that sets up a confrontation with President Barack Obama.

“Given Iran’s continued pattern of aggression and the country’s persistent efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region, preserving these sanctions is critical,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) from the Senate floor. The bill passed the House 419-to-1 with the only nay-vote coming from Rep. Thomas Massie, also a Republican from Kentucky, who objects to economic sanctions on libertarian grounds.

“This is even more important given how the current administration has been hostage by Iran’s threats – by Tehran’s threat to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and how it ignored Iran’s overall efforts to upset the balance of power in the greater Middle East,” McConnell said.

The senator, whose wife Elaine Chao will lead the Transportation Department under President-elect Donald J. Trump, said the incoming president will be more attentive to dangers Iran poses to America’s national security.

“The authorities extended by this legislation gives us some of the tools needed to, if necessary, impose sanctions to hold the regime to account and to keep the American people safer,” he said. “Next year, I expect the new administration and the new Congress will undertake a total review of our overall Iran policy.”

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. David Perdue (R.-Ga.), said he was very happy about the extension of the sanctions because it signals to Iran that Congress is not going along with the President’s loose hand and blind eye to Iran’s violations of the nuclear deal.

Perdue has introduced several pieces of legislation to hold Iran accountable, including a bill to prohibit cash payments to state sponsors of terror, and another to improve oversight of the implementation of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“President Obama never should have waived key sanctions on Iran,” Perdue said. “Before the ink was dry on his dangerous nuclear deal, the rogue nation test-fired ballistic missiles and accumulated excess heavy water, which could be used for making plutonium bombs.”

The Georgian said, “Since then, Iran has continued to threaten our strategic allies in the Middle East and weaponized terrorist groups across the volatile region. Today, we took action to reauthorize key sanctions, giving President-elect Trump a full menu of options to implement against Iran for any future transgressions.”

Secretary of State John F. Kerry visited Capitol Hill Tuesday to personally lobby Democratic senators against joining Republicans in antagonizing the Iranians, which is a risk because the Obama administration in its nuclear deal with Iran front loaded the thawing of seizing assets, so that Iran no longer has the same financial incentive to adhere to the agreement.

A measure of the chamber’s unified front against Kerry, Obama and their Iranian policy was the remarks given by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.), one of the Senate’s most partisan Democrats, in support of supporting the sanctions.

“It’s critical step toward deterring and impeding support of Iran’s development of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

“I’m here to encourage my colleagues to support this 10-year reauthorization,” he said. “We must act before it expires before the end of the year. We really have no practical choice because the practical effore of the Iran Nuclear Agreement depends on our resolve, on our commitment to reliably and deliberately stop–and durably stop an armed nuclear Iran by using sanctions and other means, if necessary.”

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