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Last night, 222 Republicans and 178 Democrats voted to increase sanctions on Iran, undercutting potential direct negotiations. Only 17 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted against the misguided bill.

What does the bill do?

The bill encourages the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and sanctions people responsible for human rights abuses.

It amends current law to impose mandatory sanctions on financial institutions that provide services to people subject to human rights sanctions, or who export sensitive technology to Iran.

It amends law to allow the President to impose sanctions on foreign people who transact with the Central Bank of Iran, and weakens exceptions to sanctions related to the purchase of Iranian petroleum.

In reporting on the vote, The Hill noted that, while the vote was a landslide, the fact that there were 20 no's was significant. Many Iran sanctions bills have passed unanimously, and some have passed just by simple voice votes. The largest opposition any such bill ever garnered was 6.

The increased opposition stemmed from a hopefulness resulting from the recent change in government in Iran.  Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president-elect, is widely viewed as a much more moderate figure than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the debate preceding the vote, Keith Ellison suggested that the U.S. should give Rouhani time before throwing more sanctions at him.

"Why not, at least until Mr. Rouhani has a chance, forestall legislation like this and engage in diplomacy?" Ellison asked.

"Why do we want to strengthen the hands of extremists who will say to Rouhani, 'See, you thought you could work with them. We were right all along.' "

Although State Department officials have often argued that they have nothing against the "Iranian people" and have no desire to inflict damage upon civilians, such damage is and will continue to be an unfortunate side effect. Last year, Reuters reported that Iran's food distribution system was in crisis. The sanctions have also produced a medical crisis stemming from the blockage of trade in many life-saving drugs.

In some cases, the sanctions even strengthened state-own companies:

One of the unintended consequences of sanctions on the health sector is that they have strengthened companies linked to the regime and the Revolutionary Guards at the expense of the private sector, because of their privileged access to hard currency at the official rate. In some cases, those regime-connected firms are actually using their access to cheap foreign currency to acquire drugs cheaply and smuggle them into Iraq, deepening the crisis.
Ellison's comments about patience and diplomacy, unfortunately, fell upon many deaf ears, including those of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
"Our actions must be clear and our commitment must be unwavering," she said. "It must be to continue this policy of the United States to prevent any country from developing nuclear weapons capability."
There is a lot of chutzpah in those words.  According to the Ploughshares Fund, the U.S. currently has 7,700 nuclear weapons in its stockpile.  Both the U.S. and Russia have more than 20x the arsenal of France, the country with the third largest. As recent reporting from Mother Jones showed, the U.S. is spending more on its nuclear weapons complex than it did during the Cold War, developing the next generation of nuclear weapons, and disarming quite slowly.

I don't believe that Iran should have nuclear weapons in the same way I believe that no country at all should--and that includes the U.S. If the U.S. is not going to put a good faith effort behind disarmament at home, then it does not have the moral credibility to deter other countries from developing their own weapons.

The U.S. also remains the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons against an enemy.

But let's go back to the vote.

The 3 Republican "no" votes were Justin Amash (MI-03), Walter Jones (NC-03), and Tom Massie (KY-04). The three of them have tended to be reliable on votes curbing the excesses of U.S. foreign policy.

The 17 Democratic "no" votes were the following:

Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Andre Carson (IN-07)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30)
Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Betty McCollum (MN-04)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Jim McGovern (MA-02)
George Miller (CA-11)
Jim Moran (VA-08)
Beto O'Rourke (TX-16)
Donald Payne (NJ-10)
David Price (NC-04)
Peter Visclosky (IN-01)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)

Hank Johnson (GA-04) voted present.

All of the top members of House leadership---Pelosi, Hoyer, Van Hollen, Becerra, Wasserman Schultz, Israel--voted yes.

John Conyers, Rush Holt, Steve Horsford, and Carolyn McCarthy were not there for the vote.

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