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House panel votes to urge president & Congress to potentially increase sanctions on Iran

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Talks to secure a preliminary accord that would limit Iran’s nuclear program continued today in Lausanne, Switzerland, a day after negotiators extended the March 31 deadline.

There is tremendous pressure on the Obama administration, with members of Congress already prepared to denounce an agreement between the P+1 nations and Iran that has yet to be finalized.

A coalition of Republican lawmakers and some key Democrats in the Senate say they’re poised to impose additional sanctions on Iran, depending on the status of negotiations, something that the Obama administration does not support.

Weighing in on the issue today in Tallahassee was the Florida Legislature — or at least one committee in the House.

The House Local & Federal Affairs Committee voted unanimously to support HB 1285, a memorial sponsored by Palm Beach County Republican Kevin Rader that calls on the president and Congress to pass and enforce a new set of economic sanctions against Iran if a deal on their nuclear program fails to come together.

Rader listed three reasons why he was presenting the memorial, beginning with the fact that he said for the past decade Iran has been trying to produce a nuclear weapon. “It’s been written about. It’s been talked about, and it’s something that I feel that we cannot allow to happen.” he said.

He added that he considered Iran to be the largest state sponsor of terrorism around the world, and he blasted previous comments by Iran’s leaders about eliminating Israel and their stance against the West.

Rader cited two precedents that the Legislature has invoked against Iran in recent years; a 2007 bill that instructed the State Board of Administration to shed holdings with companies that did business in Sudan and Iran, and a 2011 bill that prohibits state and local governments from contracting with companies invested in Iran’s petroleum energy sector. “This measure just keeps on putting the pressure with economic sanctions against Iran,” he said.

Several lawmakers didn’t hesitate to show their unstinting support for the proposal.

Lakeland Republican Neil Combee said Rader was “pussyfootin’ around when it comes to their view of this country.” In addition to statements about wiping Israel off the map, Combee added that some of Iran’s top leaders “are frequently chanting ‘death to America.'”

Palatka Republican Charles Van Zant quoted Genesis from the bible. “He said ‘we must fear God.’ He said he would bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel.'”

And Milton Republican Doug Broxon said such memorials “send a message about who we are as a Legislature. It may be a small light, but it’s a light.”

The measure passed out of the committee unanimously.

A similar measured sponsored by Palm Beach Democrat Joseph Abruzzo is moving through the Senate concurrently.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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