Senator Lankford Offers Legislation to Provide Accountability in American Foreign Spending, Press Administration for Details on Billion-Dollar Payment to Iran

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today offered five amendments to the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill during its markup in Committee. The amendments addressed a variety of issues, including restricting foreign aid to wealthy countries and financial oversight over the Obama Administration’s billion-dollar cash payment to Iran.

“No one wants their tax money wasted, especially if it’s wasted overseas,” said Lankford. “The amendments I offered provide necessary accountability in our nation’s foreign aid budget and into the Administration’s dangerous dealings with rogue nations like Iran. Specifically, one amendment would require the Obama Administration to provide more details on a payment of $1.7 billion to Iran in January, which was transferred just hours after the release of four American prisoners held unjustly in Iran and is now funding Iran’s military.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies reported in May that the American taxpayer-funded $1.7 billion payment has ended up in Iran’s military budget.

Lankford supported the bill being reported out by the Appropriations Committee. The bill included many provisions he authored, such as the promotion of international religious liberty, prohibition on funds being used to implement the UN Arms Trade Treaty, prohibition on bonuses paid to poorly performing government contractors, and a reporting requirement on how the Administration is encouraging more religious freedom in Vietnam, among others.

However, Lankford still has concerns with the lack of oversight over many large foreign aid programs, such as taxpayer payments to the UN, and is committed to continued efforts to increase transparency and accountability in these programs.

Amendments offered by Lankford: 

  • Iran Payments Oversight – Requires Administration to provide more details on its $1.7 billion legal settlement payment to Iran in January. The payment was made to cover the sale of military equipment prior to the Iranian revolution. Amendment accepted by voice vote.
  • International Internet Freedom – Encourages the prioritization of a US government-led Internet freedom programs in countries that maintain obstructive Internet firewalls. Amendment included in manager’s package.
  • Internet Freedom in Cuba – Requires a report on the level of Internet connectivity in Cuba, and how effective the communist government in Cuba is restricting its citizens’ Internet access. Amendment included in manager’s package. 
  • Natural Gas Exports – Encourages State Department to facilitate natural gas exports to Ukraine to lessen its dependence on Russian energy. Amendment included in manager’s package. 
  • Prevent Foreign Assistance Slush Fund from Funding Rich Countries – Prohibits the Administration from funding projects through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation in countries with upper-middle income and high income economics, such as China and Russia. This program to fund international historic reconstruction projects does very little to advance American interests. This proposal was included in Senator Lankford’s 2015 government waste report entitled, “Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways The Government Dropped The Ball.” (page #80) Amendment offered.