The House voted 400-20 Wednesday to hit Iran with the toughest sanctions yet over its nuclear program, in a forceful rejection of arguments that Congress should refrain from new penalties pending international negotiations with the new Iranian government.
The lawmakers adopted a bill that would basically block Iran from selling any oil abroad, after a year in which its exports have already been cut in half by international sanctions.
Lawmakers said they wanted to send Tehran a strong signal before the negotiations, and didn't believe statements by Iran's president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, that he wants a better relationship with the West.
Some congressional aides and supporters of cracking down on Iran predicted the overwhelming House vote would put pressure on the Senate to follow suit.
"The overwhelming bipartisan support for the House sanctions legislation sends a clear message to the Senate and the Obama administration of the need for enhanced leverage ahead of the next round of diplomatic talks," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which favors stronger sanctions.