WASHINGTON, D.C. – South Carolina Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan’s first bill, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act (HR 3783), passed the House of Representatives by a 386-6 vote on Tuesday. The bill passed the Senate unanimously with a technical amendment earlier this month after passing the House unanimously the first time it was presented there.
“This is a common sense, pro-liberty bill,” Duncan said. “We're not giving the government any more power. Part of the problem with this emerging threat is that many federal agencies aren't on the same page. This bill assesses the problem, gets agencies to collaborate, and starts the process of developing a strategy to combat this threat.”
The legislation addresses a growing concern among security experts that Iran is increasing its sphere of influence in Latin America. The bill initially passed the House of Representatives just two weeks after an Israeli news organization revealed that Iran has established a Hezbollah terrorist training base in northern Nicaragua, and one week after the media reported that three suspected Hezbollah terrorists were arrested in Merida, Mexico.
“From the deployment of an Iranian television network in Latin America, to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s frequent trips to the region; Iran’s made their interest in the region well known,” said Duncan. “Recent developments including arresting suspected Hezbollah terrorists in Mexico, and evidence showing terrorist networks potentially working closely with Mexican drug cartels is even more disturbing.”
The bill establishes a strong U.S. posture, policy, and relationship with Latin American countries, protects U.S. interests and assets in the Western Hemisphere such as embassies, consulates, businesses, energy pipelines, and cultural organizations, including threats to U.S. allies, addresses the vital national security interests of the United States by ensuring that energy supplies from the Western Hemisphere are free from the influence of any foreign government that would attempt to manipulate or disrupt global energy markets and requires a secure U.S. border with the U.S. working in coordination with the governments of Mexico and Canada to prevent Iranian operatives from entering the U.S. Counters efforts by foreign persons, entities, and governments in the region to assist Iran in evading U.S. and international sanctions.
Duncan’s bill passed the Senate about two weeks after they voted 94–0 to approve new sanctions against Iran for their refusal to meet international demands that they discontinue their uranium enrichment program. The sanctions, approved as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act introduced by Senators Mark Kirk (R–IL) and Robert Menendez (D–NJ), would impose financial penalties on foreign banks and businesses involved in Iran’s energy, ports, shipping and shipbuilding industries.
“One of the ways we can honor the memory of those who lost their lives during the War on Terror is to be vigilant in protecting against new threats here at home,” Duncan said. “We must be vigilant in protecting against new threats here at home. In the shadow of Iran’s growing nuclear ambitions, there’s a new threat emerging of an Iranian-backed terror network in our own hemisphere.”
The bill will now go to President Barack Obama’s desk to await his signature. With no opposition from Democrats in the House or Senate, there is little opposition expected to the President signing the bill into law.