Thursday, April 17, 2008

Update on Iran Provision in House Debt Relief Legislation

The motion to recommit H.R. 2364 was offered by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) to include Amendment 994 which states: “Countries that have a business relationship with Iran are not eligible to be considered under this debt relief program.”

In his floor speech, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) argued: “This motion to recommit is frankly very, very simple. It just states the following, that countries that have a business relationship with Iran are not eligible to be considered under this debt relief program. Now, the underlying bill in front of us today has a very noble goal, Madam Speaker. It is to work comprehensively to ensure that poor countries that have heavy international debt are able to relieve these debts through certain responsible actions. But the question is, should we separate these goals, these noble goals, from our broader foreign policy interests?

Rep. Diaz-Barlart claimed: “The Iranian regime, we all know, has a very active program to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and therefore, it makes it one of the most dangerous regimes in the entire world. In addition, Madam Speaker, as we heard just recently, just last week from General Petraeus, we are increasingly concerned by the Iranian terrorist regime’s efforts on behalf of terrorist elements in Iraq and elsewhere. The lives of our troops are at stake, and any country that assists Iran economically should not benefit from the bill in front of us today.”

“Our country, obviously the United States, does not have diplomatic or financial ties to Iran, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that countries that choose to participate in our debt relief program should shatter whatever economic ties they currently have with that terrorist regime. And if they don’t have them now, if they don’t have those ties now, they clearly should not develop them as long as they want or expect debt relief from us through this program.”

Financial Service Committee Chair Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) engaged in a debate with Rep. Diaz-Barlart and expressed concern that the amendment might affect Iraq. According to Rep. Frank, “You limit eligibility under this program. Iraq might very well owe us money. The question isn’t nuclear weapons. It is, would this prevent Iraq from being eligible, these criteria. And I would hope someone would answer that.”

Rep. Diaz-Barlart responded: “Your bill does not deal with Iraq. It does not affect Iraq.”

Rep. Frank responded back, “…the Government of Iraq have business interests with Iran. I know there are close ties between the Governments of Iraq and Iran. There’s interchangeability.”

The vote to recommit the bill and add the amendment then passed by a vote of 291-130.

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