Legislation introduced Thursday in the House and Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would hit Iran with tougher sanctions for the ongoing development of its ballistic missile program.
While Washington focused on the health care saga in the House, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), quietly introduced a new bill that would impose mandatory sanctions on individuals involved with Iran's ballistic missile program.
The legislation would expand terrorism-related sanctions to include the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran's elite military force. The bill would codify sanctions announced by the Treasury Department last month that applied to anyone tied to Iran's support for terrorism.
Recent Stories in National Security
The bill has support from more than a dozen senators, including Democratic co-sponsors Ben Cardin (Md.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Bob Casey (Pa.), and Chris Coons (Del.). Republican backers include Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), James Risch (Idaho), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).
Menendez told Reuters the bipartisan group "assiduously worked" to ensure the bill does not violate the Iranian nuclear pact enacted last year. The bill only applies to Iran's non-nuclear activities.
The bill is expected to pass through the Senate given its broad support.
The chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), introduced a similar bill late Thursday in the lower chamber.
Like the Senate version, the House legislation would target individuals and entities involved in Iran's ballistic missile development, including foreign companies and banks.
A staffer with the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday that the legislation's strong bipartisan support would likely propel it to the House floor. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) are both cosponsoring the bill.
The staffer, who asked not to be named, said the bill was introduced in response to a recent committee hearing that detailed Tehran's ongoing development of missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
"Under the cover of a deeply-flawed nuclear deal, Iran has accelerated its ballistic missile development," Royce said in a statement Thursday. "These tests—carried out in defiance of the U.N. Security Council—are aimed at perfecting the delivery system for a nuclear warhead."
Both bills were introduced ahead of the annual conference in D.C. by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which begins Sunday. Iran has not commented on the bills, but has said in the past that any U.S. sanctions are a violation of the nuclear agreement.
The White House said in February it was "putting Iran on notice" before unveiling sanctions against 25 entities and individuals in Iran who have ties to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah. The sanctions were in response to a Jan. 29 missile test by Iran. Tehran immediately threatened retaliation.