House Republicans promised their crusade against the Iran nuclear deal wasn’t over last month, and on Thursday, the House took one more swipe at preventing President Obama from implementing the agreement.
The House on Thursday voted 251 to 173 to stop Obama from lifting Iran sanctions as planned until Tehran pays the $43.5 billion it still owes in damages to the families of terror victims in cases where responsibility can be linked back to Iran — such as the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut and Hezbollah’s 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
“Should Iran receive United States sanctions relief before it pays the victims of its terrorism all of what U.S. courts say those victims are owed?” said Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), who introduced the measure. “I say no. Not one cent.”
If the survivors or victims’ relatives are not paid now, “it definitely won’t happen later,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) said. He argued that Iran would spend the money freed up from sanctions relief on building up its military force and other nefarious activities, rather than paying the balance of restitution payments ordered by U.S. courts. “Why not at least get our own civilians paid the judgment that they earned up-front?”
The measure earned only sparing support from Democrats, most of whom argued that the effort was misguided — not least because Iran’s assets are still frozen until sanctions are lifted.
“So where would Iran get the money to pay the American claims?” asked Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It’s a Catch-22. And who does it hurt? Not Iran. It hurts the victims…. This bill offers nothing but false hope.”
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, a group of Democrats — including senators who had voted both for and against the Iran deal — unveiled their latest Iran-related proffer on Thursday: A measure to give more security aid to Israel and other countries to counter the Iran threat, restrain Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, and set up expedited procedures for slapping Tehran with new terrorism sanctions in light of any infraction in the years ahead.
“We all recognized that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is being implemented, it’s going forward, so we are concentrating on going forward, not the past,” said Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). The ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he leads a group of Democrats who presented the legislation, which they are calling the Iran Policy Oversight Act.
The group of architects includes Sens. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Of the set, Cardin and Schumer voted against the Iran deal last month.