President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill that was sponsored by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and will effectively bar Iran’s proposed United Nations ambassador from entering the United States. Though he signed the bill, Obama said he will use discretion in enforcing the law.
Cruz is normally known as a hyperpartisan, staunch conservative, but this bill spawned a rare air of consensus in Washington. Both the House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed the legislation by voice votes last week.
The law prevents terrorists or others the President deems to be a national security threat to the United States from entering the country as ambassadors to the United Nations. Cruz formed the bill in response to Iran’s selection of Hamid Aboutalebi as its ambassador to the U.N. Aboutalebi was allegedly involved in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
The White House had already denied a visa request for Aboutalebi, but White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier in the week that the Obama administration was reviewing the constitutionality of Cruz bill.
Obama attached a statement to his signing of the legislation that cited a statement from President George H.W. Bush, Obama said he will use discretion in applying the law.
“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation,” Obama said in the statement.
“Nevertheless, as President Bush also observed, ‘curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.’ I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.”
It is the first legislation sponsored by Cruz, the divisive Republican senator from Texas who led Republicans into the government shutdown last year, to be signed into law by Obama. Many viewed it as a shrewd move that could bolster any ambitions Cruz has toward running for president in 2016.
Last weekend, during a conservative summit in New Hampshire, Cruz was quick to tout the legislation as a rare moment of bipartisanship in Washington.
“It is a terrific moment of clarity for this country that Congress can act in a bipartisan manner in unison — voting 535-0 — that we should keep acknowledged terrorists out of this country,” Cruz said.
“That is the way our system is supposed to work. I want to commend the Republicans and the Democrats who worked together who passed this common-sense legislation, protecting our national security but also making clear to repudiate the act of aggression, the insult from Iran in nominating someone who held Americans hostage.”
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