Congressman Tom Cotton

Representing the 4th District of Arkansas
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The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act

May 23, 2013
Cotton Blog


At the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, my colleagues and I passed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act with unanimous, bipartisan support.  I offered several amendments to the bill, most of which passed unanimously.  But during the Committee meeting, some Democratic colleagues misunderstood the amendment which has led to incorrect reporting that the amendment would’ve infringed on American’s constitutional rights.  So let me set the record straight: the amendment would prevent Iran’s mullahs from evading sanctions by diverting assets and income to their relatives.  The amendment doesn’t apply to American citizens who deal with targeted Iranians and thus doesn’t implicate the Constitution.
Current law and the bill passed yesterday identify specific Iranian officials for sanctions, primarily U.S. visa ineligibility and certain financial restrictions.  My amendment would expand this list of Iranian persons to include those official’s spouses and relatives to the third degree of consanguinity to prevent Iranian officials from using relatives to evade sanctions, an all-too-common practice in Iran and other tyrannies.  The amendment does not identify any American for sanctions or other punishment, contrary to reports.
Think about it this way.  The underlying bill would prevent Ayatollah Khamenei from obtaining a U.S. visa or engaging in international financial and commercial transactions. No one disputes the legality (or desirability) of that approach.  My amendment would simply broaden that restriction to Ayatollah Khamenei’s closest relatives, which doesn’t implicate the constitutional rights of a single American.
The amendment is a preventative measure against the most obvious loophole in a sanctions regime.  Perhaps some relatives of Iran’s corrupt mullahs are wholly innocent and unaware of their conduct—doubtful, to say the least—but they still benefit from the regime’s corruption.  Moreover, the slight hardships they face pale in comparison to the hardship that millions of Americans and Israelis will face if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon.  In any event, those relatives certainly don’t have constitutional rights in America.
I ultimately withdrew the amendment because our committee meeting had run very long and I didn’t want to delay the bill from passing yesterday.  But I remain committed to the policy and I’m working with allies to include the amendment at other committees of jurisdiction or in the Senate.