House votes to toughen sanctions on Hezbollah

The House on Tuesday passed legislation to impose further sanctions extremist group Hezbollah's foreign assets.

Passed 404-0, the measure would slap sanctions on Hezbollah's foreign assets, international narcotics trafficking rings and its television station, Al-Manar.

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"Today, we have an opportunity to place a critical blow to Hezbollah," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). "We must pass this legislation to make sure that we can do is cripple their ability to finance and put people out of harm's way." 

Specifically, it would direct the Treasury Department to prohibit maintaining a payable-through account in the U.S. by a foreign financial institution that knowingly helps Hezbollah's activities.

In addition, the president would be authorized to designate Hezbollah as a foreign narcotics trafficker and a transnational criminal organization. The U.S. government has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization since 1995.

"This legislation we are considering today would give the administration the means necessary to combat Hezbollah's global financial network," said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.). 

The sanctions could end 30 days after the president certifies to Congress that Hezbollah is no longer a foreign terrorist organization or threat to the U.S. 

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that crippling sanctions on Hezbollah could help bring the group to the negotiating table. He pointed to the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear arsenal, arguing that the talks began because of international sanctions.

"This can be done with Hezbollah. This is what we're trying to do today," Engel said.