The House of Representatives easily passed a bill on Wednesday to tighten sanctions on Iran, showing a strong message to Tehran over its disputed nuclear program days before President-elect Hassan Rouhani is sworn in.
The vote also highlighted a growing divide between Congress and the Obama administration on Iran policy ahead of international talks on the nuclear program in coming months. Iran insists the nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes.
The bill, which passed 400 to 20, would cut Iran's oil exports by another 1 million barrels per day over a year to near zero, in an attempt to reduce the flow of funds to the nuclear program. It is the first sanctions bill to put a number on exactly how much Iran's oil exports would be cut.
"It's a dangerous sign to send and it limits our ability to find a diplomatic solution to nuclear arms in Iran," McDermott said.
A supporter of harsher sanctions disagreed.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "doesn't see our flexibility and good faith efforts as a sign of good intentions, he sees it as a sign of weakness," said Mark Dubowitz, the head of Foundation of Defense of Democracies, an advocate of sanctions.
"If anything, it's only going to be massively intensified sanctions that get him to blink."