On Monday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who had been pushing for new sanctions against the Iranian government, confirmed to BuzzFeed that he had received a call from the White House encouraging him to end support for the sanctions. According to BuzzFeed, both President Obama and Vice President Biden are attempting to use the bully pulpit to push members of Congress to back off of harsher sanctions.
The calls come in the wake of Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Geneva, during which Kerry attempted to broker a treaty between the west and Iran that would have done little to slow Iran’s nuclear program, but would have crippled the west’s sanctions regime.
A Congressional aide said that Democrats have received calls as well, and are now under “an extraordinary amount of pressure” to get behind Obama and Biden. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was reportedly called by Biden, as well as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other cabinet officials. Democratic Senators including Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have already moved off their positions on moving quickly to strengthen sanctions. Casey’s spokesperson told BuzzFeed that Casey was “encouraged by the reports” from Geneva and “believes that the true test of Iranian sincerity is action.”
The week after next marks the debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, which would mark the debate over sanctions. One Congressional aide told BuzzFeed, “Certainly the more hawkish [members] have no real lefty threat in their district are going to be increasingly vocal about their concerns. Especially as Israel ramps up its own rhetoric I’m quite sure it will have that effect.”