Congress Ramps Up Pressure on Iran in Flurry of Legislative Activity

In the wake of Iran’s April 13 retaliatory strike on Israel, the House and Senate replaced last week’s legislative schedule with one almost entirely focused on anti-Iran legislation. Following the lead of House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX), who penned a letter to the Department of State regarding sanctions waivers on Iran and chaired an HFAC hearing on Iranian threats, the House passed more than 14 individual pieces of legislation (while introducing several more) that work to target Iran and affiliated groups around the region. On the Senate side, several similar bills made their way out of committee. The chamber will now preside over a number of bills that the House has sent over, in addition to the Israel security supplemental bill that is set to deliver the Israeli military $26.38 billion in additional funds.

Bill  Purpose Status
H.R.3033 Eliminates a sunset clause in the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and makes permanent the requirement for the President to impose sanctions on entities engaged in transactions related to Iran’s energy sector or acquisition or development of certain weapons. Passed House
H.R.4691 “Restricts the President’s authority to unilaterally undertake certain actions with respect to Iran and increases congressional oversight of those actions.” Passed House
H.R.5826 Requires the President to deny visas for anyone seeking admission to the United States as a representative to the United Nations who is sanctioned under terrorism or weapons of mass destruction proliferation Executive Orders. Passed House
H.R.5921 Decreases financial resources available to Iran by prohibiting the Department of Treasury from issuing licenses that would allow US financial institutions to engage in transactions or trade with Iran. Passed House
H.R.5923 Expands US sanctions on Iran to include transactions between Iran and China for the purchase of Iranian oil. Passed House
H.R.5947 “Terminates the presidential waiver of certain sanctions on Iran and the licenses issued by the Department of the Treasury that allowed for the transfer of previously blocked Iranian funds.” Passed House
H.R.6015 “Requires the President to issue regulations to ensure that transactions exempted from sanctions on Iran for humanitarian purposes do not facilitate (1) the purchase of goods or services involving a person designated for imposition of sanctions, (2) support for acts of international terrorism, or (3) the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Passed House
H.R.6245 Requires the President to report on the estimated funds held in financial institutions by certain Iranian leaders. Passed House
H.R.6323 Modifies the President’s authority to waive restrictions on certain US accounts of foreign financial institutions that facilitate financial transactions on behalf of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian entities. Passed House
H.R.6408 Creates a new legal category of “terrorist supporting organizations,” and would require that the Department of Treasury remove tax exempt status from any organization deemed to have provided material support to terrorism under this category. Passed House
H.R.6603 “Requires the United States to regulate the export of certain foreign-produced items related to Iran.” Passed House
H.Res.288 Urges the European Union to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Passed House
H.R.8011 Sanctions and designates 11 Iranian proxy organizations as foreign terrorist organizations. Introduced
H.R.8038 Authorizes the President to impose certain sanctions with respect to Russia and Iran (combines several of the bills on this table into one piece of legislation). Passed
H.Res.1143 Condemns Iran’s attack on Israel on April 13. Agreed to In House
H.Res.1148 Condemns the Iranian regime for “terrorism, regional proxy war, and internal suppression.” Introduced
S.4136 Revokes the tax-exempt status of groups deemed to have provided support or resources to designated terrorist organizations. Introduced
S.1829 Targets China’s ability to purchase Iranian oil. Passed out of committee
S.2336 Imposes sanctions on Iran’s missile and drone program. Passed out of committee
S.3235 Targets China’s ability to purchase Iranian oil. Passed out of committee
S.2626 Imposes sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses. Referred to committee


I. Legislative Branch

1) Legislation

House Passes Additional Security Assistance for Israel; It Now Heads to Senate. On April 15, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson outlined a plan to bring four separate spending bills to the floor, including for Israel, Ukraine, countries in the Indo-Pacific, and a fourth which combines various supplemental foreign assistance funding. As part of this push, H.R.8034, the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, was introduced on April 17 and passed on April 20 by a vote of 366-58. The bill includes $26.38 billion in additional security assistance for Israel, featuring funds to replenish the Iron Dome defense system and other weapons systems. The bill, which prohibits funding for UNRWA, also includes funds for humanitarian assistance, though with none specifically earmarked for Palestinians. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is likely to receive support. After the bill’s passage in the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) quickly released a statement reading, “To our friends in Ukraine, to our allies in NATO, to our allies in Israel, and to civilians around the world in need of aid: rest assured America will deliver yet again.”

Legislation Introduced to Impose Sanctions on Houthis. On April 15, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) introduced H.R.8001 which would impose sanctions on Yemen’s Houthis in response to their attacks on maritime commerce in the Red Sea. The bill would also sanction those providing material support to the Houthis and require reports to be submitted to Congress regarding the threat that they pose to US national security and to international shipping. On April 17, H.R.6046, a bill that would require the Department of State to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization, passed the House by a vote of 285 – 135.

House Passes Resolution Condemning “From the River to the Sea.” On April 16, the House passed H.Res.883 by a vote of 377-44 (with one member voting “present.”. The resolution expresses that “the slogan, ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ is antisemitic and its use must be condemned.”

Resolutions Introduced Regarding Reports of Sexual Violence on October 7. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Jen Kiggans (R-VA) introduced H.Res.1147 on April 15, which demands that the international community hold accountable those who committed sexual violence during and after the October 7 attack in Israel. In the Senate, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led 25 of her colleagues in introducing S.Res.505, a resolution that condemns the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in the October 7 attack.

Legislation to Sanction Captagon Producers Passes House. On April 17, Rep. French Hill (R-AR), along with five of his colleagues, introduced H.R.4681, the “Illicit Captagon Trafficking Suppression Act.” The legislation would impose sanctions on foreign entities that facilitate or profit from the production or proliferation of Captagon, an addictive drug. In a press release, Rep. Hill stated that the production and sale of Captagon, specifically in Syria, “generates billions in illegal funding” for the Assad regime, which supports Iranian proxies in the region.

House Passes Legislation on Use of “Human Shields.” Introduced in October by Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), H.R.5917 would enhance the president’s authority to sanction terrorist groups that use civilians as human shields in their operations and would require the president to impose sanctions on members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The bill also allows Congress to submit to the president individuals who they believe should be sanctioned under such a law. Further, the legislation requires the Department of Defense to provide a report to Congress on the use of human shields by Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 419 – 4.

Rep. Tlaib Introduces Resolution Recognizing April as “Arab American Heritage Month.” On April 17, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) introduced H.Res.1155 expressing support for the recognition of April as “National Arab American Heritage Month” and celebrates the heritage and culture of Arab Americans in the United States.

Rep. Green Introduces Resolution Commemorating Civilian Lives Lost in Gaza. On April 19, Rep. Al Green (D-TX) introduced H.Res.1161. The resolution commemorates the tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed in Gaza, especially those of children, and calls for the immediate return of hostages. It also calls on the United States to “do everything it can to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, perpetrated by the destruction of homes, infrastructure, schools, and hospitals.”

2) Personnel and Correspondence

Leading Foreign Policy Lawmakers Seek Human Rights Determination for Sudan. House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) sent a letter to President Joe Biden “requesting a determination on the designation of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its leader” for violations of internationally recognized human rights.

Representative Steube Leads Letter Regarding Labeling Goods from the West Bank. Representatives Greg Steube (R-FL), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), and Andy Ogles (R-TN) penned a letter to President Joe Biden condemning reporting that the administration is considering requiring labels on goods made by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Currently, goods that are made in settlements are labeled as being made in Israel. The letter states that if the decision moves forward, it will “empower the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”

Letter to DOJ Seeks Investigation into Domestic “Death to America” Chants. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) led a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate a rally in Dearborn, MI where individuals reportedly chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” The letter calls on the Attorney General to investigate the rally, writing that “These anti-American and anti-Semitic calls for inciting violence are not protected speech and pose a serious threat to public safety and the American values of freedom and democracy.”

3) Hearings and Briefings

Congress Holds Hearings on Military Budgets. Several congressional committee hearings took place last week to evaluate military budget requests. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense held a hearing on the Department of Defense FY 2025 budget, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces held hearings on Navy Seapower/Projection Forces, Airforce, and Army FY 2025 budgets, and the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Army FY 2025 budget

II. Executive Branch

1) White House

President Biden Hosts Iraqi PM at White House. President Joe Biden hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani at the White House on April 15. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the strategic partnership between Iraq and the United States and discussed “bilateral cooperation under the 2008 US-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.” Additionally, the leaders discussed matters of energy and the environment, regional integration and political cooperation, economics and finance, the lasting defeat of the so-called “Islamic State,” and security cooperation.

NSA Sullivan Hosts US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group. On April 18, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan hosted the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group to discuss the situation in Israel in the wake of Iran’s retaliatory attack and Israel’s pending invasion of Rafah. US officials reiterated concerns about any planned operation in Rafah, citing a need for the protection of civilians who have sought refuge there.

2) Department of State

Department of State Approves Military Sale to Iraq. On April 15, the Department of State approved “a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Iraq of C-172 and AC/RC-208 Aircraft Contractor Logistics Support and Training and related equipment for an estimated cost of $140 million.”

Secretary Blinken and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Co-Chair US-Iraq Committee Meeting. Secretary Antony Blinken and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim co-chaired the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee Meeting on April 15. In a press conference prior to the event, Secretary Blinken emphasized that the US-Iraq relationship is a “360-degree partnership” that works to collaborate on topics such as “energy security, democracy, the rule of law, climate, and water.” In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the countries “affirmed the strides Iraq has made in bolstering its security, stability, and sovereignty and noted their mutual determination to deepen the strong ties between their two peoples.”

Department of State Issues Notice on West Bank Violence. On April 15, Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller responded to reports of a 14-year-old Israeli who was found dead last weekend. The Israeli government ruled the death a terrorist attack, prompting Israeli settlers to invade towns in the West Bank, killing two Palestinians. The Department of State condemned the violence, calling on “Israel and the Palestinian Authority to do everything possible to de-escalate tensions.”

Department Releases 2024 Compliance Report Regarding Compliance with Nuclear Agreements. The Department of State released its annual compliance report regarding arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements or commitments. This year’s report includes sections regarding violations of non-proliferation agreements in Iran and Syria. The report notes Iran’s continued failure to comply with IAEA safeguards and that United States remains concerned that there is undeclared nuclear material in Syria.

Secretary Blinken Speaks with Qatari Prime Minister. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on April 16 regarding Iran’s attack on Israel. The officials emphasized the importance of preventing further regional escalation and reaffirmed their commitment to continued coordination on ceasefire and hostage release negotiations.

Blinken Reportedly Skirting Staff Recommendations on Aid to Israel. ProPublica reported on April 17 that Secretary of State Antony Blinken skirted a Department of State panel recommendation “months ago to disqualify multiple Israeli military and police units from receiving US aid after reviewing allegations that they committed serious human rights abuses.” The recommendations reportedly came from a special committee of Department officials known as the “Israel Leahy Vetting Forum,” a panel charged with reviewing whether US assistance has been used as part of human rights violations. On the other hand, Axios reported that Blinken is considering sanctioning an IDF unit that was found to be responsible for human rights violations in the occupied West Bank.

US Blocks Security Council Vote on Full Palestinian UN Membership. On April 18, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have advanced Palestine’s application to become a full member of the UN. In a press briefing, Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the Department of State, stated that “We do not think that actions in New York, even if they are the most well-intentioned, are the best, appropriate path.” He reiterated that the United States believes that “the best path forward is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, supported by the United States and other regional partners.”

Department of State, G7 Release Statement on Situation in Middle East. On April 19, the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union released a statement on the situation across the Middle East. The statement responded to developments between Israel and Iran, Israel’s pending invasion of Rafah, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, ceasefire/hostage release talks, Red Sea security, the peace process in Yemen, and a solution to the crisis and national reconciliation in Syria.

Secretary Blinken Speaks with Israeli Officials. On April 21, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held calls with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister in the war cabinet Benny Gantz. The officials discussed US support for Israel, including conversations about ongoing ceasefire/hostage talks, increasing humanitarian aid into Gaza, the prevention of civilian harm, and measures to de-escalate tensions in the region.

3) Department of Defense

Secretary Austin Reiterates Support for Israel. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss the aftermath of Iran’s April 13 attacks. The Secretary reiterated “steadfast” US support for Israel and “reaffirmed the strategic goal of regional stability.”

Secretary Austin Holds Calls with Gulf Officials. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III held calls with Bahraini, Kuwaiti, and Qatari officials on April 15 to discuss the recent Iranian strikes on Israel. The Secretary emphasized coalition efforts to support Israel and reiterated the importance of regional de-escalation.

Secretary Austin Meets with Iraqi Prime Minister. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani on April 15 as part of the Prime Minister’s trip to D.C. They discussed the Iraqi-US security partnership and reaffirmed their joint commitment to security in the region. The secretary also commended Iraq’s commitment to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS mission in Iraq and discussed plans regarding future weapons sales, military training for Iraqi forces, and other efforts pursuant to the US-Iraqi Strategic Framework Agreement.

4) Department of the Treasury

Treasury Announces New Sanctions on Iran. On April 18, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced “sanctions on 16 individuals and two entities enabling Iran’s UAV production, including engine types that power Iran’s Shahed variant UAVs, which were used in its April 13 strike on Israel.” OFAC also designated five companies providing steel production materials to Iran’s Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC), one of Iran’s largest steel producers, or purchasing KSC’s finished steel products. Additionally, it announced sanctions on three subsidiaries of Iranian automaker Bahman Group. The United Kingdom is also sanctioning Iranian military organizations at the same time. Addressing the sanctions, President Joe Biden stated that the United States remains “committed to acting collectively to increase economic pressure on Iran. And our allies and partners have or will issue additional sanctions and measures to restrict Iran’s destabilizing military programs.”

Treasury Sanctions Two Israeli Settlers. On April 19, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions on two Israeli violent extremists in the West Bank. Following the announcement, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said that OFAC will continue to use Department tools to target organizations “undermin[ing] the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank.”

5) United States Agency for International Development

Deputy USAID Administrator Participates in Conference for Sudan in Paris. Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman took part in the International Humanitarian Conference on Sudan in Paris on April 15. She attended the conference with US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello and announced an additional $100 million for humanitarian for the people of Sudan. The Deputy Administrator also met with other donors and partners during her trip that are working to improve humanitarian access for those impacted by the crisis.

III. Judicial Branch

Trial for Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Begins. On April 15, the court case of Al Shimari v. CACI began. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of three Iraqi torture victims against US-based private contractor CACI Premier Technology Inc. and alleges that CACI, hired by the United States, “participated in a conspiracy to commit, and otherwise aided and abetted, unlawful conduct including torture and war crimes at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.”