House passes Iran sanctions legislation

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed sanctions against Iran’s energy sector.

The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act was approved Tuesday by a vote of 412-12, with four voting present.

The bill will strengthen the president’s authority to sanction companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum, which is seen as potentially having a large impact on Iran’s economy because the country imports 40 percent of its refined petroleum. The measure also requires the White House to report 90 days after passage, and every six months thereafter, on any person who has provided Iran with refined petroleum or engaged in any activity that would assist them in acquiring it.

A Senate version of the bill is unlikely to pass before the beginning of next year, after the Obama administration urged the body to slow down progress on the legislation as it attempts to garner backing for multilateral sanctions. The Obama administration also wants to see some changes to the measure.

The House bill’s sponsor, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), noted that the Senate bill is more expansive in its provisions and said he was "always open" to changes in a conference committee that would make the legislation "equally effective."

"The big question is how soon will the international community conclude that without rigorous sanctions, the diplomatic approach gets nowhere," he said.

Virtually every major Jewish organization backed the legislation; Americans for Peace Now appears to be the only organization that opposed it.

"This measure sends a strong message to Iran, and to our friends in the international community, that the United States has the will to act to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability," AIPAC said in a statement.

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