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House Passes Resolution to Block Iran’s Access to $6 Billion From Prisoner Swap 

The House passed a bipartisan measure Thursday that would block Iran from accessing the $6 billion transferred by the U.S. in a prisoner swap, a step Republicans pushed in response to the nation’s alleged role in the deadly attacks last month by Hamas on Israel. 

The measure — titled the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act — passed 307-119 as Republicans sought to hold the Biden administration accountable for what they call its complicity in funding Iranian-backed terrorism in the Middle East. 

“With such instability in the region, the last thing we need to do is to give access to $6 billion to be diverted to more Iranian-sponsored terrorism,” Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a debate. 

Administration officials have rebuffed this criticism, noting that none of the funds has been made available to Iran and insisting that when it is, it can be used only for humanitarian needs. 

Republican critics like McCaul say that despite the money being restricted to aid, it is fungible and could free up other funds for Tehran to provide support to Hamas. 

The U.S. and Iran reached the tentative agreement in August that eventually saw the release of five detained Americans in Tehran and an unknown number of Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. after billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets were transferred from banks in South Korea to Qatar. But days after the October 7 attack by Hamas, the U.S. and Qatar agreed that Iran would not be able to access the money in the meantime, with officials stopping short of a full refreezing of the funds. 

The GOP-backed resolution, which now goes to the Senate where it is unlikely to be supported by the Democratic majority, would impose new sanctions on the funds to prevent the transfer of any monies to Iran. It also threatens to sanction any government or individual involved in processing the transfer of the funds. 

Several Democrats who opposed the measure defended the Biden administration’s decision to transfer the money in exchange for American hostages, especially in light of the American hostages now being kept by Hamas in Gaza. 

“Iran, of course, as Hamas, is a murderous and corrupt regime. They’re not pleasant. And this isn’t easy,” Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during the floor debate. “But thanks to this agreement, five American families are now home again.” 

He added, “And Iran has lost the leverage of holding these American hostages.” 

High-ranking U.S. officials have sought to defend the decision to negotiate with Iran despite its track record of supporting terrorism against the U.S. and its allies. But officials have also conceded that Iran’s influence over the various militant groups is undeniable.

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