March 4, 2024

The House approved in a veto-proof vote Thursday a bill that would permanently freeze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue previously unfrozen by President Biden as part of a hostage swap deal with the Islamic Republic.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul’s bill, the No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act, passed in a 307 to 119 vote.

Nearly all Republicans and more than 90 Democrats voted in favor of the measure, which imposes a sanction to prevent $6 billion in Iranian oil assets from being accessed by the country.

Rep. George Santos, New York Republican, voted present.

The bill now heads to the Democrat-led Senate, where the potentially embarrassing legislation for Mr. Biden is not likely to get a vote.

The $6 billion was frozen in bank accounts because of U.S. sanctions. The money was transferred to Qatar in September as part of the Biden administration’s prisoner-swap deal with Iran.

Republicans upped the pressure on the White House to permanently refreeze the funding after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel that killed at least 1,200 people. Iran is a chief supporter of Hamas, providing the group with money, weapons and training.

Mr. Biden put a hold on the funds last month, but critics argue that the move did not go far enough.

“If they won’t do it, then we will,” Mr. McCaul said. “Congress will stop this money from going into Iran, not just for politics, not even for the American people, but for the victims of terrorism around the world, especially the people of Israel.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that “not one penny” of the money has been spent by Iran.

Supporters of the bill shot back that the legislation would ensure the money never gets spent by Iran.

Mr. Meeks also said that meddling with the previous deal could hobble ongoing negotiations to release more hostages captured by Hamas during the Oct. 7 raid because it would be seen as America going back on its word.

“Supporting this legislation will shoot American global credibility in the foot,” Mr. Meeks said.

Hamas captured roughly 240 people during the onslaught, but a fragile, nearly weeklong truce between the terrorist group and Israel has seen dozens of hostages — including a pair of Americans — released.

Hamas said there were about 100 people still in captivity after two more Israeli hostages were released on Thursday.