The House passed legislation Thursday that would bar the U.S. government from facilitating aircraft sales to Iran, after Republicans accused President Obama's team of making concessions to Iran that are not mandated by the recent nuclear deal.
The Treasury Department's decision to allow U.S. banks to finance the sale of Boeing aircraft to Iran, after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's initial statement that the U.S. did not have to provide such authorization under the Iran deal, was the impetus for the legislation.
"This bill would keep Americans' deposits away from a country where the president's own State Department calls 'the foremost state sponsor,' and Treasury called it a primary money laundering concern," Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., said Wednesday evening during debate on the legislation.
"[G]oing beyond the scope of the [Iran deal], they authorized financial institutions to 'engage in all transactions necessary to provide financing or other financial services' related to the Iranian air orders," Huizenga said. "Why should U.S. banks and their customers be implicated in Iranian atrocities?"
The flow of international funding into Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal has been a source of controversy for more than a year. Obama and other western powers agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the regime's compliance with restrictions on their nuclear weapons program, making it legally possible for Western companies to do business in the country.
But many corporations have been slow to do business with Iran, leading to worries that the regime will walk away from the pact after failing to receive the anticipated economic benefits.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., took up that line of argument when she said the legislation would violate the terms of the Iran deal. And she accused the Republicans, who are voting on the bill despite the expectation of a presidential veto, of playing political games in the closing days of the Obama administration.
"Perhaps my colleagues on the other side of the aisle know that in two short months, they will no longer have the luxury of legislating without consequences," she said.
"I'm going to bet that under the Trump administration, Republicans will not be so eager to move legislation to unravel this agreement because, like the rest of us, they do not know how Mr. Trump will govern and because they know there is no other reasonable approach to curbing Iran's nuclear ambition short of military intervention."
But Republicans argue that the United States is under no obligation to ensure that private companies strike deals with Iran. They have also tried to discourage businesses such as Boeing from making the agreements due to the regime's use of Iran Air and other entities to foment terrorism.
"We now have American companies that are saying, 'You know what, let's go in and let's do business with a terrorist regime,'" Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., said during the debate. "How's that? Let's just go make a buck. That's the scandal of this. The scandal is there are American companies, international companies, Boeing, Airbus, that are now making their own names linked with terror forevermore."