WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Lamborn this week shepherded a bill through the House giving the president authority to block foreign diplomats with known terrorist ties from entering the U.S., a measure that targets an official with ties to the Iranian hostage crisis.
The Colorado Republican introduced the House version, which brought attention to the initiative and helped gather support, but it was the Senate bill authored by Texas Republican Rep. Ted Cruz that was passed unanimously in both chambers.
“It’s important to keep terrorists off the streets of New York City,” Lamborn said in an interview off the House floor.
“This means the president could deny a diplomatic visa to Iran’s choice of an ambassador to the UN. It’s still up to the president to do the right thing,” Lamborn said.
The legislation would add language to the 1991 Foreign Surveillance Act that allows the president to deny a visa to an ambassador linked to terrorism. The bill’s language was adjusted to give the State Department more leeway to determine if an envoy had engaged in terrorist activities, said a Lamborn staffer.
The bill is expected to hit President Barack Obama’s desk soon. Lamborn aides said they are cautiously optimistic Obama will sign the measure into law, noting its bipartisan and unanimous passage in both chambers.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Iran’s appointment of Hamid Aboutalebi was “not viable,” although he joked that the phrase meant, “Whatever you want it to mean.”
Carney declined to say whether Obama would sign the bill, and a White House spokesman did not return an email for comment.
“In terms of legislation, I just don’t have a view on it in terms of the president at this time,” Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Iran announced last month that Aboutalebi would be the country’s new envoy to the United Nations headquartered in New York City. Aboutalebi has been connected to the student group that in 1979 stormed and occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days with 52 hostages.
Aboutalebi, who has served as Iran’s ambassador to other countries, has admitted he provided communications to the revolutionary student group.
Conservatives pounced on Aboutalebi’s appointment as a sign of Iranian truculence and disregard over the hostage standoff. They decried the administration’s nuclear deal with Iran last November, and Lamborn has called for scrapping the concord.