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House letter against Iran sanctions garners half of Democrats

JTA

February 13, 2014 | 5:03 pm

United States Capitol

United States Capitol

Half of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives signed on to a letter opposing any legislative action on Iran sanctions with talks underway.

“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,” said the letter sent Wednesday to President Obama signed by 100 Democrats as well as four Republicans.

Of the 21 Jewish representatives among the 200 Democrats in the House, four signed the letter: Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

The refusal to countenance even a nonbinding resolution underscores the difficulties for proponents of new Iran sanctions in garnering support.

“Congress should not undermine diplomacy by giving the Iranian hardliners an excuse to scuttle the negotiations.” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who with Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) initiated the letter. “So many of our colleagues have expressed their determination for diplomacy, and so many more share the same view.”

Proponents of the new sanctions, among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, have launched efforts in recent days to generate a non-binding House resolution urging a tougher line on Iran in the talks underway between the Islamic Republic and the major powers. The talks are aimed at keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Senate Democrats have set aside legislation for now that would impose new Iran sanctions as a means of strengthening the U.S. hand at the talks. The Obama administration had successfully lobbied to table the legislation, arguing that its passage could scuttle the talks.

Jewish groups opposing the sanctions, including J Street and Americans for Peace Now, praised the letter.

“J Street applauds the initiative of the letter’s signers to show the President and all interested parties that Congress has the backs of our negotiators as they undertake the difficult task of securing a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” said Dylan Williams, the group’s director of government affairs.

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