(The Hill) The House on Thursday passed a bill that would force the Biden administration to permanently freeze $6 billion in funds it had opened up to Iran earlier this year in exchange for the release of five American detainees.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), passed in a 307-119 vote.
Ninety Democrats joined almost all Republicans present in voting for the legislation, while 118 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), opposed it.
Republicans have slammed the deal since it was announced in August, accusing the Biden administration of kowtowing to Iran and enabling what they consider a terrorist regime to arrest more Americans and take more aggressive action against the U.S. in the Middle East.
“There is only one language that is understood by our adversaries,” he said on the House floor. “That is strength.”
The White House has defended the decision to unfreeze the $6 billion, arguing it was necessary to release the five Americans who they considered wrongfully detained. The Biden administration also said the money can only be used for humanitarian reasons, though Iran has pledged to use the money however it wishes to.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the HFAC, said “not a single penny” of the funds has been spent by Iran and that the funds would not be used for “nefarious purposes,” while arguing reneging on the deal would hurt U.S. global credibility. He also said that Biden “did the right thing” to release the detained Americans.
“He brought five Americans home who were rotting in Iran’s notorious prison and every member of Congress, I repeat, every member of Congress who was aware of these cases wanted our fellow citizens home,” Meeks said. “I ask my colleagues on the other side, what do you say to those families? Do we renege on the deal?”
McCaul said it would be “naive” to assume Iran only uses the money for humanitarian purposes. He added the deal was not “just about the five American hostages,” suggesting the Biden administration may have used the unfreezing of the funds to seek a revived agreement with Iran on limiting the country’s nuclear weapons development. The U.S. has denied nuclear talks were part of the deal.
“There’s something else going on here,” McCaul said. “This is about the undercurrent of a deal we don’t know about.”