Congress is considering a number of legislative initiatives that may be of interest to the Iranian American community. The PAAIA Public Policy Center is pleased to provide a round-up on the status of the legislation. In general, PAAIA focuses on bills and congressional actions concerning three areas: civil liberties, foreign policy towards Iran, and immigration. PAAIA recognizes that it is important that Iranian Americans be informed about legislative initiatives in these areas and the positions that their members of Congress take concerning them.
Bills & Resolutions
S.653: Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013
On March 22, 2013, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced S.653, also known as the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013. The legislation has gained a total of 17 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and John Cornyn (R-TX), and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
S. 653 provides for the establishment of a Special Envoy to promote religious freedom for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. The duties of the envoy would include monitoring and combating acts of incitement and intolerance directed against religious minorities, working to ensure that the economic and security needs of such minorities are met, and working with foreign governments in the Near East and South Central Asia to address laws that are religiously discriminatory. The Special Envoy would be subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State.
A similar bill, H.R.301, has been introduced in the House.
H.R.3292: United States-Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act
On October 15, 2013, Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ/8th) introduced H.R.3292, also known as the United States-Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act. The legislation has gained a total of 16 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and to the Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, and Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker.
H.R.3292 effectively authorizes the president to use military force against Iran. While it does not define itself as an authorization bill, its language effectively makes it one. In a section entitled “Support for United States Diplomatic Efforts,” the act specifies a number of preconditions on any agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program. They include not only a virtual end to all Iranian nuclear activity, but also an insistence that Iran stop its support of terrorist groups, demonstrate a peaceful foreign policy, and recognize Israel’s sovereignty. The bill also permits the president to impose additional sanctions on Iran.
H.RES.109: Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights
On March 12, 2013, Representative Michael G. Grimm (R-NY/11th) introduced H.RES. 109. The legislation has gained a total of 71 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Tom Rice (R-SC/7th), Tom Cotton (R-AR/4th), Kurt Schrader (D-OR/5th), and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO/3rd), and has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
H.RES.109 calls on Iran to release all prisoners being held solely on account of their religion. It calls on the U.S. president and secretary of state, in cooperation with responsible nations, to condemn Iran’s continued human rights violations and demand that prisoners held for their religious beliefs be released. H.RES.109 also urges the president and secretary to impose sanctions on Iranian government officials and other individuals directly responsible to serious human rights abuses, including abuses against Iran’s Baha’i community.
H.RES.109 has been introduced in the Senate as S.RES.75.