Updated: April 10, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas are asking President Obama to sign legislation that would create presidential authority to bar United Nations representatives from entering the United States if they have known ties with terrorist groups.
"If we don't do something, Iran could send an ambassador to the U.N. who could come onto our own soil, who was one of the hostage-takers who in 1979 took 52 of our embassy folks hostage for 444 days," Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, said Thursday after H.R. 4357 passed unanimously out of the U.S. House. Cruz already sponsored a similar bill that passed unanimously in the Senate.
The new law would give the president authority to deny visas to any U.N. representatives who engaged in "terrorist activities."
The Foreign Relations Authorization Act already gives the president the authority to bar anyone who has "engaged in espionage activities" from the country, but Lamborn said the addition of terrorism became necessary after a recent appointment by the Iranian government. Iran chose Hamid Aboutalebi as a U.N. Ambassador; Lamborn said Aboutalebi was a known member of the Muslim student group that helped capture U.S. embassy workers in Tehran in 1979.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney reportedly said U.S. officials have told Iran the selection was "not viable."
Aboutalebi has told Iran media outlets that he played no role in the hostage crisis. He would have been a student at the time.
The United States is in the midst of private talks with Iran officials at the United Nations complex in Vienna.
Those talks also include discussions about Iran's suspected nuclear program.
Lamborn urged the president to sign the bill but was simultaneously critical of Obama's foreign relations with the Islamic Republic.
"It does have larger implications," Lamborn said. "I'm distressed about the fact that in the past, the president has been very quick to appease Iran...nuclear negotiations have been poor and weak. He may feel like this offends them too much and he may not employ this power."
Contact Megan Schrader