Given Obama’s track record, he’ll just ignore this. But it’s still long overdue.
The Senate unanimously approved a bill banning Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations from the United States on Monday night.
Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal would prevent known terrorists from entering the United States as ambassadors to the U.N. Hamid Aboutalebi, who participated in the 1979 hostage-taking of Americans in Tehran, has been appointed ambassador to the UN by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Anyone connected with the hostage-takers shouldn’t get a U.S. visa, said a former hostage and U.S. diplomat. He requested anonymity to avoid renewed attention.
The Cruz bill passed unanimously Monday evening and will require House approval and President Obama’s signature to take effect. An aide to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who has authored a similar bill in the House, said the congressman was working with Cruz to move the proposal quickly through that chamber. Leadership aides in the GOP-controlled House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the bill’s prospects.
A deal to approve Cruz’s bill quickly materialized over the weekend, aides said, when the senator from Texas spoke with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, who also has been pushing aggressively for sanctions against Iran and for the Obama administration to block the granting of a visa to the new envoy.
In a deeply divided Senate, the idea of Cruz and Schumer — two often-intense partisans — working together on anything is almost fanciful. But aides to both senators said that during their conversation Schumer said Cruz’s bill would probably be able to come to the floor without Democratic objections. Cruz agreed to make changes that would require that targets of the legislation must be found by the State Department to have participated in terrorist activities before they can be barred from entering the country, aides said.
The conversation came after both senators expressed their opposition last week to Aboutalebi’s appointment. In a speech, Cruz said: “It is unconscionable that in the name of international diplomatic protocol the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard of the status of diplomats when they were stationed in his country. This person is an acknowledged terrorist.”
Cruz’s legislation, if passed, would allow the President to deny applications “if the President determines the applicant has engaged in terrorist activity against the United States, engaged in espionage against the United States or poses a national security threat to the United States.”
Cruz said “This legislation speaks to the larger issue of who we have to let into this country” and quoted one of the hostages, Barry Rosen, calling the idea of Aboutalebi as an ambassador “a disgrace.”
Cruz also quoted Rosen saying, “If the President and Congress don’t condemn this act by the Islamic Republic then our captivity and suffering at the hands of Iran was for nothing.”
The bill overall is a formality since it allows Obama to deny the visa if he so chooses. It wouldn’t have passed otherwise. But it’s still a statement worth making. And it shows skeptics that Cruz can work with Democrats to get things done if he chooses to.