WASHINGTON – Closing in on the goal of imposing new penalties on Iran before the
August congressional recess, the US House of Representatives debated fresh
sanctions on Wednesday.
The measure was expected to be approved by the
House and Senate later in the day or Thursday before being sent to the White
House for the president’s signature.
The new bill would impose sanctions
on anyone who invests in Iran’s petroleum or natural gas sector, who provides
refined petroleum products to Iran, who joins in energy ventures with Iran or
who transports Iranian crude oil, closing several existing
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida), chairwoman of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee, called the measure a “bicameral, bipartisan agreement
that represents the strongest set of sanctions ever put in place against the
regime in Tehran.”
She explained that it “blacklists virtually all of
Iran’s energy, financial and transportation sectors, and cuts off companies that
keep doing business with Iran from access to our markets in the United
The measure, in the works for several months, moved toward
passage at the same time that the executive branch imposed further sanctions of
The White House on Tuesday slapped additional penalties on
foreign banks that facilitate the sale of Iranian oil, including the designation
of a Chinese bank.
The White House has differed with Congress on some
aspects of earlier Iran sanctions legislation, as the administration has sought
waivers and other measures to preserve a wide latitude in how and to what degree
to implement legislative provisions, but a top aide said Tuesday that the
administration embraced the current measure.
“We are reviewing the
specific text of the bill that was produced, but we’re quite optimistic that
we’re going to be able to continue to work in lockstep with Congress with this
new legislation,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters
on a conference call. “We certainly share the goal, and we believe it can be an
important tool in adding to the sanctions regime we have in place.”
vote Wednesday was expected to get wide support, but a few members of the House
took to the floor to express their opposition.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who
sought the Republican presidential nomination earlier this year, criticized the
act as echoing the mistaken decision to go to war with Iraq.
beating the war drums once again,” he said, referring to Iran as “a third-world
country” whose military assets can’t threaten America.
Rep. Howard Berman
(D-California), ranking member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee and a
major backer of the legislation, countered Paul’s comments in his own floor
“The only hope we have for a peaceful solution is to apply
enough pressure to ensure Iran ends its nuclear weapons program,” he said.
Berman also indicated that both the legislation and new designations Tuesday
were not “the last word” on sanctions against Iran.
“Unless Iran agrees
to end its weapons program, we must continue to pursue even tougher measures
that would result in crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime,” he declared.