Republican proposes censuring Obama over Iran visa carve-out

A House Republican plans to introduce legislation to censure President Obama for making what the GOP views as illegal changes to a visa entry program for people traveling from Iran.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced modifications last week to the visa waiver program, which allows citizens from 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa. 

Under the new policy, people who have recently traveled to or are dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria — countries considered terror hotspots — can still travel to the U.S. if they obtain a visa through the State Department. But some visa waivers will be allotted on a "case-by-case basis" to people who have traveled to Iran for "legitimate business-related purposes" following last year's international accord to curb the country's nuclear program.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) said he will introduce a bill to formally rebuke the president and accuse him of violating provisions in legislation passed by Congress late last year that tightened the visa waiver program.

“It is clear now, for the second time, that President Obama has sold his soul to Iran, first for negotiating away our national security by lifting sanctions on Iran and handing the country billions of dollars to build a nuclear bomb, and second for welcoming potential terrorists from Iran into the U.S. with open arms," Ross said in a statement.

“The president is blatantly circumventing Congress’ intent and violating the American people’s trust by allowing this exemption and placating to Iran’s deceptive intentions," he added.

Republicans en masse blasted last week's announcement, saying the Obama administration took advantage of what had been bipartisan legislation passed in the aftermath of last year's terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

The measure, which was included in the December omnibus government spending package, allows the Obama administration to waive the visa requirement if a person's travel is considered to be “in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States.” 

Several top House Republicans expressed worry last month about offering too much leeway for Iran. In a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said they were "deeply concerned" about applying the waiver for Iran.

“This letter serves to dispel any notion that the congressional intent would allow the waiver authority to be used for business travelers,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The proposal offered by Ross, the senior deputy majority whip, is not the first measure in this Congress seeking to censure President Obama. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) introduced legislation earlier this month to censure the president for his executive actions on gun control.