WASHINGTON - Republican lawmakers tried to force a vote in the US Senate on Thursday on a bill to impose tough new sanctions on Iran if negotiators do not reach what they see as an acceptable nuclear deal, but the measure failed to move ahead.
US Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker asked for unanimous consent to allow a vote, but Democratic Senator Chris Murphy objected. "It would send a message that Congress does not stand with the president as the negotiations continue," Murphy said.
The Republicans said their goal was to ensure Congress is involved in the process of reaching a deal with Iran before a Nov. 24 deadline.
The proposed "Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act of 2014" would re-impose sanctions on Iran waived during the negotiating process if there is no deal by the deadline.
It would also give Congress 15 days after an agreement is reached to review the pact and let legislators cut off funding to implement the pact if it passed a resolution of disapproval or the plan was not submitted for lawmakers' approval.
And it would reinstate any sanctions if Iran failed to comply with terms of an agreement.
Officials said this week that Iran and six major powers are unlikely to meet the Nov. 24 deadline to reach a final deal to lift sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, despite a year of negotiations.
They are expected to extend the deadline while talks continue.
Many members of Congress - mostly Republicans, but also some Democrats - worry that the Obama administration will go easy on Iran in order to reach an agreement the president could cite as a significant foreign policy achievement.
Republican victories in the Nov. 4 congressional elections, which gave the party control of the Senate and increased its majority in the House of Representatives, will make it harder to win Congress' support for the Democratic administration on Iran.