Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sens. Jeff Flake, Rand Paul Only 2 Republicans NOT Co-Sponsoring Iran Sanctions Bill; Cato Institute Defends Them Vs. GOP Attackers

(UPDATE, 4:00p.m.): Sen. Flake has responded to Arizona's Politics' inquiry.  Full article here.  Partial quote: "Should Iran fail to live up to its commitments, additional congressional action on sanctions will be warranted.")

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is one of only two Republicans (Kentucky's Rand Paul being the other) who has declined to co-sponsor the Iran sanctions bill (S.1881).  He is fielding criticism from members of his own party, but received defense from a commentary on the libertarian - and Koch Brothers-founded - Cato Institute website.

Arizona's Politics has asked Flake's office for an explanation of the hold-out, and will update when the response is received.  But, the Senator told Slate's David Weigel yesterday that he is "monitoring negotiations.... I want to see if this is a net plus, or not. I think it is, so far."

The "Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013" currently has 58 co-sponsors, and is designed to keep pressure on Iran while six world powers - led by the U.S. - negotiate with Iran regarding that country's nuclear and/or nuclear weapons program.  Many also believe that if Congress passes the new sanctions bill and overrides a presidential veto, that it will scuttle the negotiations.

The Cato Institute - a libertarian think tank founded in the 1970's by the now-infamous billionaire Charles Koch - published a commentary this week blasting "neoconservative" Republicans promoting the sanctions bill and praising Flake and Paul.  The commentary compares the present situation to when neocons opposed then-President Ronald Reagan's efforts in 1988 to negotiate treaties with the diminished Soviet Union.

Of course, Senator Flake has his own long ambivalence about the effectiveness of sanctions in general.  He has spent a great deal of his Congressional career lobbying to end sanctions against Cuba, and has questioned the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran.  (In fact, in the interest of disclosure, I have personally been part of a group that met with the then-Congressman about the issue, and he certainly appears to arrive at his mixed feelings honestly;  this latest development is not a surprise.)

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