Thursday 10 November 2016

House to debate blocking loans for Boeing sale to Iran

WASHINGTON – The House is preparing to debate legislation that aims to block U.S. financing for Boeing Co.’s sale of $25 billion worth of planes to Iran, a key committee announced Thursday.

President Obama could veto the legislation if Congress sends it to him. But the bill represents the latest salvo from lawmakers opposed to the nuclear deal negotiated with Iran, which President-elect Donald Trump has criticized and said he would overturn.

The bill from Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., would prohibit U.S. banks from financing the plane sale, and would revoke any Treasury Department approval of the sale granted before the legislation is approved.

The bill would "prohibit the secretary of the Treasury from authorizing certain transactions by a U.S. financial institution in connection with the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran."

"I am extremely concerned that by relaxing the rules, the Obama Administration has allowed American companies to be complicit in weaponizing the Iranian regime," Huizenga told USA TODAY. The bill "prevents the leaders of the Iranian regime from having access to the U.S. financial system."

The House Rules Committee announced Thursday that it would meet Monday to set the terms for how the bill is debated on the House floor. Even if approved in the House, it is unclear whether the legislation could clear the Senate during the lame-duck session of Congress.

The bill was one of several pieces of legislation that lawmakers crafted in opposition to the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, which opened the door to greater trade.

The 2015 deal lifted sanctions in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear facilities and allowed the purchase of aircraft and parts.The sanctions followed the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Boeing rival Airbus, a European manufacturer, announced it has received Treasury Department approval in September to sell planes to Iran. Boeing, a Chicago-based manufacturer, has also received a Treasury license to sell 80 planes to Iran, under a memo signed in June, but talks continued about actually selling the planes to the national airline Iran Air.

Huizenga told the Financial Services Committee when it approved the bill in July that Iran Air had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2011 for transporting missiles and fighters to Syria, and that a United Nations report found Iran had shared ballistic-missile technology with North Korea.

“Who wants U.S. banks to draw on savings accounts in order to extend loans to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism?" Huizenga asked before the panel approved the bill. “It does not make sense to me."

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., "strongly opposed" the bill as undermining the nuclear agreement.

But Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who supported the bill, said it didn't violate the agreement. He suggested that Iran could default on loan payments to U.S. banks.

"Let's not expose American depositors and banks to the risk that they will not be paid tens of billions of dollars by Iran," Sherman said.

Boeing didn't immediately responded to requests for comment for Thursday.


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