GOP lawmakers push Iran sanctions package following Hamas attack on Israel

Republican lawmakers in the House are set to push “the toughest Iran sanctions package ever proposed by Congress.”

By Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon

The legislation will declare Tehran responsible for Hamas’s war on Israel and divert the Biden administration’s $6 billion ransom payment to Iran into the hands of American terrorism victims.

The bill would prohibit the Biden administration from “lifting sanctions until Iran ceases its support for terrorism,” including Hamas, which is responsible for slaughtering more than 1,400 people in Israel and taking hostage many others, including Americans, according to a copy of the bill obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. It would also limit the president’s ability to skirt current sanctions on Iran, eliminating one avenue through which the White House has freed up billions of dollars for Tehran’s hardline regime.

The legislation, set to be introduced on Monday, is the first effort by Republican lawmakers to codify a bevy of tough economic sanctions on Iran following the selection of Rep. Mike Johnson (R., La.) as speaker. More than 80 lawmakers are united behind the bill, generating “immense pressure” on leadership to pass it in an expedited fashion, according to senior congressional sources familiar with the effort.

The legislation is meant to restrict the Biden administration’s ability to grant Iran sanctions waivers, cutting off a diplomatic tool the United States has been using to cajole Iran into inking a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear deal. Congressional foreign policy leaders behind the bill told the Free Beacon that Tehran’s role helping Hamas carry out its most recent strike on Israel is proof the White House’s cash infusions to the country helped send its terrorist enterprise into overdrive.

“The threat emanating from the Iranian regime has never been more dire as we have witnessed mass murder in Israel, including of Americans, by Iran’s terrorist puppet Hamas and attacks on U.S. forces by other Iran terrorist proxies,” Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a House Foreign Affairs Committee member who helped sculpt the bill in his role as the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) national security chair, told the Free Beacon. “This administration has utterly failed to enforce sanctions and this is the consequence.”

The bill is an altered version of 2021 House legislation that sought to codify a range of tough economic penalties on Iran first implemented by the Trump administration. While that bill did not pass, House Republicans have tweaked the legislation to target Iran’s financial channels to Hamas and cut off the Biden administration’s $6 billion ransom payment to Iran, approved last month as part of a hostage negotiation deal.

Rep. Kevin Hern (R., Okla.), the RSC’s chair, said he expects Speaker Johnson to quickly move the legislation to a floor vote. Johnson was a sponsor of the 2021 version and a former chair of the RSC, indicating he is likely to act on a well-supported initiative backed by Congress’s largest GOP caucus.

“The bill has support both in Congress and in the broader conservative movement, and there is a strong consensus on Iran policy within the Republican conference,” Hern told the Free Beacon. “I look forward to strongly advocating that the bill be marked up immediately and passed on the floor.”

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The measure is also likely to draw Republican support in the Senate and could draw some Democrats, such as Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) amid bipartisan calls for the $6 billion hostage deal with Iran to be revoked.

The Biden administration’s $6 billion ransom deal has been in the spotlight since Hamas conducted the most sophisticated and deadly attack in Israel’s history, with Republicans in the House and Senate saying the cash helped Iran sponsor the terror group’s operations.

While Republican-led legislative efforts in both chambers of Congress seek to freeze the $6 billion payment, the legislation unveiled Monday would go further by diverting the cash into a federal fund set aside for American victims of terrorism.

The bill also “declares that Iran is responsible for the October 7 terrorist attacks against Israel and that the only suitable punishment for these attacks is a return to maximum pressure on Iran,” according to a background document on the bill being circulated among House offices.

The legislation also codifies several investigations into the White House’s Iran policy and concerns that pro-Tehran advocates are operating at the Biden administration’s highest levels.

Both the House and Senate are running probes into U.S. Iran envoy Robert Malley, who was suspended from his post amid allegations he mishandled classified information, and Pentagon official Ariane Tabatabai, who is alleged to be a member of a vast Iranian-government-run influence network.

The House bill would force the administration to produce a report ” on Iranian intelligence and influence activities in the U.S.” and “whether Iranian agents have been employed with the U.S. government.”

Other statutes would boost sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program and its sale of drones to countries like Russia. A host of Iranian banks would be sanctioned as part of the measure, including those conducting transactions related to the $6 billion payment. Additionally, the cash amount for bounties on Iranians and other militants responsible for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel would be increased under the bill.

Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a House Armed Services Committee member who helped author the bill, said this month’s terror strike on Israel is “a tragic reminder that weakness begets war.”

“This administration’s failed strategy of appeasement has left the world a much more dangerous place than it was before Joe Biden took office,” Banks said, adding that Congress “must restore” tough sanctions on Tehran to right the Biden administration’s foreign policy errors.