House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said Tuesday night that Iran sanctions legislation the House was about to approve could roil the global oil markets, but that this was worth the risk in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The Iran Threat Reduction Act, H.R. 1905, would tighten sanctions against Iran, and authorize the administration to sanction the Central Bank of Iran if a required report finds that the bank has supported Iran's terrorist activities.
"This measure would cut Iran entirely off from the world's banking system, dealing an unprecedented blow to Iran's economy," Berman said. "This may cause short term difficulties for the world's oil market, and it may rankle some of our allies, but it is necessary, because stopping Iran's nuclear program is of paramount strategic importance, and we're running out of time."
The bill has more than 360 co-sponsors, and thus will easily pass the House later this week. After debate Tuesday night, a recorded vote on the bill was requested, which could come up as early as Wednesday.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) argued against the bill, and cited published reports that oil prices could spike if the bill takes effect. He also rejected arguments from supporters that tougher sanctions would help prevent a military conflict with Iran.
"Proponents of the Iran Threat Reduction Act claim that it's a last-ditch effort to prevent military confrontation with Iran," he said. "Yet, this bill takes away the most effective tool to prevent war, diplomacy."
But members of both parties dismissed Kucinich's arguments, and said tougher sanctions are needed to block Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons.
"We need overwhelming crippling sanctions against Iranian officials and their nuclear program, and we need those sanctions to be fully implemented, with serious… penalties for their violations," Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said.
"This bill may represent our last chance to find a peaceful means to pressure the Iranian regime into stopping its nuclear weapons program," Berman said.
The House also debated H.R. 2105, the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act. This bill provides for sanctions against entities that transfer certain goods, services and technology to these countries.
A recorded vote was also requested for this bill.
— This story was updated at 9:00 p.m. and 9:44 p.m.