House panel passes Iran sanctions legislation
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House panel passes Iran sanctions legislation

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed an Iran sanctions bill by voice vote.

The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act passed Wednesday would 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.

Committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said it marks the first time Iran sanctions legislation included such a reporting requirement.

Berman said he has not given up on diplomacy in bringing about a suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment program — reiterating his remarks from when he scheduled a vote on the bill earlier this month. But because of the length of the legislative process, he said, "it is important we initiate this process today."

The bill has 330 sponsors in the House of Representatives; nearly all of the some 20 members who spoke at the hearing backed the measure. The only members in opposition were Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

A Senate version of the sanctions legislation will be marked up Thursday in its Banking Committee. The measure includes refined petroleum sanctions and a measure, passed by the House earlier this month, providing legal protection to state and local governments that divest from Iran.

AIPAC applauded the House bill’s passage in a statement, saying it will "enhance diplomatic efforts by President Obama and the international community to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."