US Senate panel approves 5-year extension for Iran-Libya sanctions

The US Senate Committee on Banking has sent to the Senate floor a bill to renew the Iran Libya Sanctions Act for 5 years. Meanwhile, House leaders Wednesday decided to delay a floor vote on their bill, pending a possible compromise with the Bush administration.

By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, July 18 -- Congressional leaders Wednesday moved closer to working out a compromise on a controversial sanctions law designed to punish foreign oil companies or countries that invest in Iran or Libya.

The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 expires Aug. 5 and a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate have pledged to renew the legislation for an additional 5 years.

The Senate Committee on Banking reported a version of the bill Wednesday that would renew sanctions 5 years. The bill is ready for the Senate floor, although action has not been scheduled. The Senate bill duplicates a provision in the House bill that would give Congress an opportunity to repeal the law after 18 months, following an administration study.

Congressional sources said the White House was still negotiating with bill sponsors.

The House of Representatives had been scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday, but it was pulled from the calendar. The White House has been seeking a 2-year extension, saying a longer time frame could be counterproductive. President George W. Bush could veto a bill with a longer extension.

The House Committee on International Relations last month reported a bill to penalize companies or countries that invest $20 million/year in either country. The current law set a $20 million threshold for Iran and $40 million for Libya. The committee version would also make any $20 million or more "improvement" made to a pre-ILSA investment subject to possible sanction.

Last week, the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by industry supporter Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) passed its own version of the bill. It also renews sanctions for 5 years but would give Congress an opportunity to repeal the law after 18 months, following a study conducted by the White House. The Committee on Rules determined that bill should be considered by the full House.

However, ILSA supporters objected to the language in the Thomas bill and have been vigorously lobbying the White House to pressure GOP House leaders to drop it.

Under existing law, the president has broad discretionary powers to exempt or waive a foreign company or country from economic sanctions.

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