Congress Passes Cantwell Measure Tightening Iran Sanctions

Cantwell provision directs President to publicly expose companies that violate U.S. sanctions by selling petroleum to Iran

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised the House and Senate for overwhelmingly passing a bill to strengthen sanctions and restrictions on Iran, which includes Cantwell’s provision that will expose companies that violate U.S. sanctions by selling oil and petroleum to Iran.

The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent late Wednesday, after the House cleared it by a 421-6 margin. The legislation now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“This bipartisan bill will shut down additional loopholes that Iran has been exploiting to evade sanctions,” Cantwell said. “These sanctions are beginning to seriously impact Iran's economy, but we need to keep doing whatever we can to stop their illicit nuclear weapons program. I'm pleased the bill contains my provision that will publicly expose companies that illegally trade oil with Iran. My language will also help determine whether there are other sanction loopholes that we need to close."

Cantwell’s measure, which cleared the Senate Banking Committee unanimously last February, requires the President to produce a report to Congress every 180 days that describes the movements of both crude oil and refined petroleum products to and from Iran. The President’s report will also expose foreign persons involved in efforts to assist Iran in: developing upstream oil and gas production capacity; upgrading Iran’s refineries; converting chemical plants to petroleum refineries; or constructing new refineries.

Her provision would also require publication the identities of companies engaging in financial schemes known as “swaps” with the Iranian regime. While not currently a sanctioned activity, this information may expose additional loopholes that Congress could act on to increase pressure on the Iranian regime.

Many experts believe that Iran continues its aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons and remains a threat to global security. Economic sanctions, such as those of existing U.S. laws like the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act (CISADA), have been effective in restricting revenue flows and pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. The threat alone of strong U.S. sanctions has led many of the world’s leading energy companies to cut ties with Iran. There is considerable concern that some companies flout sanctions by continuing to trade petroleum products with Iran – boosting the regime and their own profits with sales in a market with little competition from law-abiding companies. However, nobody knows the extent to which this occurs, because the information is not available to policy makers or the public.

Cantwell’s provision was adapted from Senate Bill 2058, a bipartisan measure she introduced with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on February 1, 2012 with the following original cosponsors: Dean Heller (R-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), David Vitter (R-LA), James Risch (R-ID), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Mike Crapo (R-ID).                                                                                             

In July 2011, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Cantwell spoke in support of a similar provision she offered to S.916. That legislation was approved unanimously by the Senate Energy Committee.