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
H.R. 2603: Relevancy Act
On June 26, 2013, Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL/15th) introduced H.R.2603, also known as the Relevancy Act. The act has one co-sponsor (Representative Ross) and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
H.R.2603 would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow access to certain business records only if an investigation relates to a specific individual or specific group of individuals. It would require an FBI investigation to be of a specific person or group of persons. In addition, it would require tangible things sought and collected by the NSA to be related to a person that is subject to an investigation.
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 11 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), 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.
S.892: Iran Sanctions Loophole Elimination Act of 2013
On May 8, 2013, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced S.892, also known as the Iran Sanctions Loophole Elimination Act of 2013. The legislation has gained a total of 32 co-sponsors, the most recent being Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
S.892 would amend the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 to impose sanctions regarding foreign currencies. The bill would deny the Iranian government access to its foreign exchange reserves parked in the banks of other countries, estimated to be worth as much as $100 billion, mostly in euros. The bill would also impose severe penalties on any foreign financial institution that conducts foreign exchange transactions on behalf of Iran’s central bank or other Iranian entity that is already blacklisted by) other sanctions. S.892 would be retroactive to May 9, 2013, regardless of the passage date.
H.R. 301: Provides for the establishment of the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia
On January 15, 2013, Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-VA/10th) introduced H.R.301. The legislation has gained a total of 62 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Rob Whitman (R-VA/1st), Cory Gardner (R-CO/4th), and Tom Cotton (R-AR/4th), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
H.R. 301 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, S.653, has been introduced in the Senate.
H.R. 850: Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013
On February 27, 2013, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA/39th) introduced H.R. 850, also known as the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013. The legislation has a total of 374 cosponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-MA/3rd), Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM/1st), Tim Walz (D-MN/1st), and Bill Shuster (R-PA/9th). An amended version of H.R.850 was marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 22, by unanimous consent, and the bill was passed on July 31 by a vote of 400 to 20. It has been received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
H.R.850 limits business transactions with Iran, increases the list of Iranian companies and individuals affected by existing sanctions, and potentially blocks Iran from having access to its foreign bank assets which are held in euros. It cuts Iran’s oil exports by an additional 1 million barrels a day over a year to near zero, in an effort to reduce funds to the Iranian nuclear program. H.R.850 directs the Secretary of State to determine if Iran’s Revolutionary Guard meets the criteria for designation as a terrorist organization. If it does, the Secretary is required to impose such a designation. It also imposes sanctions on certain individuals in Iran responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses, engaging in censorship, or engaging in the diversion of goods intended for the Iranian people.
The amended markup version of H.R.850 additionally requires the president to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that, ninety days or more after the enactment of the bill, knowingly facilitate a significant financial transaction on behalf of any person determined by the president to be directly owned or controlled by an Iranian person included on the list of specially designated nationals and blocked persons maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury (with specified exceptions).
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 60 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Elizabeth Esty (D-CT/5th), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI/2nd), Erik Paulsen (R-MN/3rd), and John Kline (R-MN/2nd), 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.