POLITICS
01/14/2014 10:43 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

House Republican Move Could Accidentally Save Iranian Nuke Negotiations

WASHINGTON -- The White House may have caught a break on Iran.

The administration has been locked in a battle with a group of Senate Democrats who are pushing additional sanctions on Iran, which the White House has consistently warned could endanger ongoing nuclear negotiations and lead to war.

The senators have held firm though, and their bill, led by Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) now has majority support. Though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has signaled that he has no intention of bringing it to the floor anytime soon, the bill has 58 co-sponsors, 15 of whom are Democrats.

Enter House Republicans. Roll Call and The Wall Street Journal reported that House GOP leaders are considering bringing the Senate bill to the House floor, a move that could inject a heavy dose of partisanship into what had been a bipartisan affair. If House Republicans take control of the legislation, Democrats may become more anxious about supporting it and less likely to buck the White House.

"I'm hearing Cantor wants to take up the Menendez language," confirmed one senior House Democratic aide. "Since the House has already passed a sanctions bill, it's quite clear that this has turned into a completely political matter."

In such political matters, of course, the parties tend to line up on opposite sides. And without Democratic support of the new sanctions bill, Congress wouldn't have the ability to override a promised veto from the White House.

"Legislation from House Republicans is so often seen as purely partisan attacks," said a Senate Democratic aide. "I assume this will be seen the same way."

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to comment. Cantor's office said nothing has been scheduled yet.

The White House has gone on the record to accuse backers of new sanctions of secretly wanting to disrupt negotiations

"If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so," Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed."

For Kirk, that desire is not so secret. "The path of appeasers always leads directly to war -- it just increases the appetite of the other side," he said Monday. "Appeasers always lead directly to war. You can give Czechoslovakia to Hitler and he wants more. If you give billions of dollars to the Iranians, you're probably leading directly to conflict."

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