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Congress Shies Away From More Iran Sanctions

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down a request to strengthen Iran sanctions in the Small Business Tax Cut Act.

The motion to recommit the legislation to the House Ways and Means Committee, which was offered by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), sought to deny tax reductions for businesses that are in violation of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 or the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.

The motion failed to pass the House on April 19 in a procedural vote mostly along party lines of 179-229, while one Republican supported the motion and two Democrats opposed the measure. The Small Business Tax Cut Act calls for a 20 percent tax deduction for small businesses.

This is not the first time that the House voted down a motion to recommit, which would have strengthened legislation with further punishments on companies involved with Iran.

In November 2011, the Republican-majority House voted down a motion to recommit on a bill facilitating “crowd funding,” a business money-raising system, which would have inserted language banning the issuance of securities to businesses that have dealings with Iran. Another bill in October 2011 would have recommitted a bill that would swap lands in Arizona with a mining company while Congress investigated whether the mining company had Iran ties.

In an interview, Deutch told JTA that he introduced the amendment to the Small Business Tax Cut Act in order to prevent businesses that continue to be involved with Iran’s energy sector from receiving the deduction from the government.

“I introduced the amendment today to ensure those companies would not be rewarded that tax break,” Deutch said. “My amendment simply said that if a company is subject to sanctions by the executive branch for contributing to Iran’s energy sector that same company should not be rewarded by the U.S. government.”

Deutch expressed disappointment with some of his colleagues because “preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon was one of the few issues that received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives until today.”

“We’re trying so hard to ratchet up the sanctions and a decision to vote down this amendment flies in the face of the policy of this administration and so many of my colleagues that are committed to stopping the Iranian nuclear program,” Deutch said. “Unfortunately the Republican majority refused to take action to prevent the companies doing business with Iran from receiving a 20 percent tax break.”

A GOP adviser familiar with sanctions laws said motions to recommit were “partisan procedural games.”

David Harris, president and CEO of the National Democratic Jewish Council, released a statement to JTA, saying that the “vote was an excellent chance for the House GOP caucus to stand up and do the right thing to further strengthen the effort to isolate Iran, and they failed the test.”

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