Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) continues to rebuff the Obama administration's efforts to soften the amendment he authored with Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would effectively cut off Iran's central bank from the world financial system (see GSN, Dec. 6).

The Obama administration sent a letter to the conference committee proposing "technical fixes" to the amendment the Senate unanimously voted to include within the defense authorization bill last week, Kirk said on Tuesday at an event hosted by conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. The Kirk-Menendez amendment is meant to prohibit any financial institution that does business with the Central Bank of Iran from also doing business with the United States. A Kirk aide said the administration's proposed changes included a six-month delay for the implementation of all sanctions, not just for oil and related products, and an easing of penalties imposed on foreign institutions for doing business with the CBI.

Kirk, buoyed by the Senate's 100-0 vote last week to include the sanctions amendment in the defense authorization bill, denounced this letter and the administration's concerns, saying their proposed changes are simply meant to "undermine" the amendment and "provide a way out for the administration to say that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but to take no action."

Kirk and Menendez sent their own letter to the House and Senate Armed Services chairmen and ranking members on Monday night.

"The Menendez/Kirk amendment is tough, responsible and, most importantly, bipartisan," the letter said, a copy of which was provided to National Journal. "It provides the administration another key tool to curb Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons while keeping oil markets stable and encouraging other nations to reduce Iranian oil purchases. With the support of every single United States senator, it needs no alterations."

The Obama administration insists it supports what it calls well-targeted and properly designed sanctions against the CBI, but needs coordinated action with U.S. allies so that it does not fragment the international coalition working to isolate Iran, inadvertently spike oil prices and cause unstable markets, or otherwise negatively affect Washington's allies and trading partners. Kirk insists that the amendment's language -- a compromise meant to assuage some of the administration's concerns -- gives the president both an overall national-security waiver and the ability to waive petroleum sanctions if he determines there is not enough oil available from alternative sources to avoid negative effects on the market.