Legislation passed by Congress imposing harsh sanctions on Iran has languished for months without President Barack Obama's signature as the Islamic Republic moves forward with its nuclear program.
In December, the House passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act by a 412-12 vote. The bill would increase the White House’s power to sanction any company or individual aiding Iran in importing gasoline or refining petroleum.
Iran must import up to 40 percent of its gasoline due to a lack of refining capacity.
The Senate passed a similar bill by a unanimous voice vote in January.
Citing Iran's human rights abuses, funding of terrorists and pursuit of its nuclear program, Sen. Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said: "With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue."
Pro-Israel groups strongly support the legislation.
All that remained was for the Democratic leadership to reconcile slight differences in the House and Senate bills.
Instead, they have "bottled up the measure and refused to allow a blending of the bills," Michael M. Rosen, a Republican activist and attorney in San Diego, writes in the Jerusalem Post.
"Why? Because the Obama administration asked them to."
A State Department spokesman said the White House is trying to "make sure the president has sufficient flexibility to be able to work with other countries effectively for our shared goal of finding ways to put appropriate pressure on Iran to change course."
The administration is reportedly not expected to seek a reconciliation of the bills until the United Nations pursues a new resolution on Iran.
China opposes another round of U.N.-sponsored sanctions, and the White House has urged congressional leaders to call China a "cooperating country" and exempt Chinese companies from sanctions for doing business with Iran, according to The Washington Post.
"In light of the Obama administration's recent pummeling of the Israeli government for building homes in Jerusalem, the White House's reluctance to punish Tehran and its willingness to coddle Beijing begin to make sense,"
"Obama and his foreign policy advisers have consistently shown themselves to be more solicitous of America’s enemies than its allies, more willing to provoke our friends than to challenge our foes. And so far, this approach has succeeded only in emboldening opponents of the United States while alienating its trusted partners."