The Senate approved a bill Monday to prohibit a former hostage-taker, tapped to be Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, from entering the United States.
By voice vote, Republicans and Democrats united behind the legislation sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, that reflected congressional animosity toward Tehran and its selection of Hamid Aboutalebi.
Iran's envoy choice was a member of a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The "nomination is a deliberate and unambiguous insult to the United States," Cruz said in remarks on the Senate floor in which he described Iran's anti-Americanism since 1979 and added, "This is not the moment for diplomatic niceties."
The bill would deny entry to the United States to any person found to be engaged in espionage or terrorism or who is a threat to national security.
Cruz won the tacit support of Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, for the legislation. The two shook hands on the Senate floor, a rare bit of bipartisanship for Cruz, a tea party stalwart, and the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate.
"It may be a case of strange bedfellows, but I'm glad Sen. Cruz and I were able to work out a bill that would prevent this terrorist from stepping foot on American soil," Schumer said. "We ought to close the door on him, and others like him, before he even comes to the United States, and that's exactly what this bill will do."
Last week, Cruz questioned the wisdom of holding talks with the Iranian government about its nuclear program in light of Iran's choice for ambassador.
The United States has objected to Iran's anticipated selection of Aboutalebi, but the Obama administration stopped short last week of saying it would refuse him a visa to enter the United States. The State Department said it had raised the issue with Tehran.
Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations, said last week that "it has been a usual practice in the Iranian Foreign Ministry to formally announce and appoint ambassadors — to all foreign postings — once all the formalities are completed."
Aboutalebi reportedly has insisted that his involvement with the group Muslim Students Following the Imam's Line was limited to translation and negotiation.
Later Monday, Cruz congratulated "both sides of the aisle" for sending Iran a "clear message."
"This nomination is part of Iran’s clear and consistent pattern of virulent anti-Americanism that has defined their foreign policy since 1979," he wrote on Facebook.
"We need to send Tehran an equally clear message: the United States Senate is not going to just ignore this most recent insult, but is going to give our president the authority to affirmatively reject it.
"I am proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this national security issue that transcends political parties," Cruz wrote.
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