WASHINGTON — Maryland Rep. John Delaney on Thursday became the latest Democrat to call for tougher U.S. sanctions on Iran in response to Tehran's recent ballistic missile tests -- and the second-term lawmaker wants to press the issue through legislation.
Delaney, of Potomac, introduced a bill with Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts to prohibit the transfer of ballistic missiles or advanced weaponry to Iran, just as a growing number of lawmakers within the president's own party are seeking a stronger U.S. response to Iran's missile tests.
Delaney recently voted in favor of the nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers -- a controversial, if symbolic vote that may have cost him support from conservative Jewish voters. Politically, the legislative effort will appeal to those same voters who are concerned that the nuclear agreement tied the administration's hands on sanctions.
The agreement technically lifts U.N. sanctions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology but allows those sanctions to be imposed directly by the U.S. The Obama administration had planned to impose new sanctions on the country, but delayed doing so in late December.
"Iran's recent tests of ballistic missiles reinforce the need for the United States to stay vigilant," Delaney said in a statement. "Our safety and security is more important than ever, and Congress needs to take an active role in enforcing international agreements that support global security."
Delaney's legislation secured support from Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, who was among the last members of Maryland's congressional delegation to announce his support for the nuclear agreement.
The bill "should send a strong signal to hardliners in Iran that backing terror or pursuing ballistic missile technologies...will merit decisive action from the Congress and our global partners," the Southern Maryland lawmaker said in a statement late Thursday.
Most political observers believe the 6th District will remain safe for Democrats in this year's election, but low turnout in 2014 allowed Republicans to get within striking distance of unseating him. Several Republican circling Delaney this year have raised his support for the Iran agreement.