U.S. House votes to bar sales of commercial aircraft to Iran

A IranAir Boeing 747SP aircraft is pictured before leaving Tehran's Mehrabad airport September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would block the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran, a bid to stop sales by Boeing and Airbus that have already been approved by President Barack Obama’s administration.

The bill passed the Republican-led House by 243-174 largely along party lines. Eight Democrats joined Republicans in favor. All 174 “no” votes were from Democrats.

The measure would bar U.S. Treasury Department from issuing licenses that U.S. banks would need to finance sales of commercial aircraft, the latest in a series of efforts by congressional Republicans to counteract the international nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other world powers.

The deals by Airbus and Boeing to sell or lease over 200 jets to IranAir would help modernize and expand the country’s elderly fleet, held together by smuggled or improvised parts after years of sanctions.

Although Airbus is based in France, it must have the U.S. Treasury Department’s approval for the sale because at least 10 percent of the aircraft’s components are American-made.

Some members of Congress have raised concerns that killing the sale could cost jobs. But opponents, particularly Republicans who unanimously opposed the nuclear agreement, argue that the passenger aircraft could be used for military purposes such as transporting fighters to battle U.S. troops or allies in Syria.

The measure is unlikely to become law during the current Congress. It would need to pass the Senate, where it would face stiff opposition from Democrats.

And the White House said Obama would veto the measure even if it did pass the Senate. The administration believes the legislation would be a violation of the nuclear pact, in which Iran agreed to curtain its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

However, the climate for the nuclear pact could change once Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20. Trump was harshly critical of the nuclear agreement during his campaign.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler