The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would force the Biden administration to permanently freeze $6 billion in funds it had opened up to Iran earlier this year as part of a prisoner swap deal which saw the release of five American detainees, The Hill reports.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), passed in a 307-119 vote.
90 Democrats joined almost all Republicans present in voting for the legislation, while 118 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), opposed it.
Republicans have slammed the deal since it was announced in August, accusing the Biden administration of kowtowing to Iran and enabling what they consider a terrorist regime to arrest more Americans and take more aggressive action against the US in the Middle East.
The White House has defended the decision to unfreeze the $6 billion, arguing it was necessary to release the five Americans who they considered wrongfully detained. The Biden administration also said the money can only be used for humanitarian reasons, though Iran has pledged to use the money however it wishes to.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month disputed claims from Republican presidential candidates that the Iranian assets may have helped pay for terror attacks outside the Gaza Strip, telling ABC that “not a single dollar from that account has actually been spent to date.”
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a staunch supporter of Israel, later pushed back on Blinken’s comments.
“I actually think it was irresponsible for Secretary Blinken to say that the $6 billion doesn’t weigh in here. I mean, let’s be honest with the American people and understand that Hamas knows and Iran knows they’re moving money around as we speak, because they know 6 billion is going to be released. That’s the reality,” she told NBC News.