Senate approves bill to ban Iranian diplomat

The Senate passed a bill Monday that would allow President Obama to block Iran’s new United Nations ambassador from entering the United States.

The bill from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came in reaction to Iran's decision to name Hamid Abutalebi as its new U.N. representative. Cruz said Abutalebi is a member of a militant group that took 52 Americans hostage in Tehran in 1979.

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Cruz said it was “deliberately insulting and contemptuous” that Iranian leaders would nominate Abutalebi for the U.N. role.

Abutalebi has applied for a visa to visit the United States in order to work at the U.N. headquarters in New York. But lawmakers have said the U.S. should reject that application based on Abutalebi's background.

The bill amends the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which already allows the president to deny U.S. entry visas to U.N. representatives found to be engaging in spying against the United States, or who might pose a threat to U.S. national security.

The new legislation would add language saying visas must also be denied to any U.N. representatives who have engaged in terrorist acts against the United States.

The Senate passed the bill through a unanimous consent agreement.

“I thought it was totally inappropriate that Mr. Abutalebi was nominated in the first place," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "It may be a case of strange bedfellows, but I’m glad Sen. Cruz and I were able to work out a bill that would prevent this terrorist from stepping foot on American soil. We ought to close the door on him, and others like him, before he even comes to the United States, and that’s exactly what this bill will do.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) has a companion measure in the House, H.R. 4357.

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