Legislative Action

Here are bills that are currently before Congress and actions you can take to support them.

Click here to find your member of Congress.

Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act (COSA) – H.R. 5879

COSA was introduced by Representative Ilhan Omar in February 2020. The bill would amend two critical laws that provide the authorities for the President to issue sanctions – the Emergency Powers Act (EPA) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

If passed, the bill would:

  • Automatically stop sanctions measures (or emergency powers) within 60 days of the President issuing the measures. After the 60 days, Congress would need to pass a joint resolution in order to keep the measures in place;
  • Require Congress to approve of the measures every six months;
  • Prohibit the President from placing the same measures (or declaring another national emergency) based on “substantially similar facts” for one year;
  • Create key humanitarian exemptions for equipment and goods needed to support civilian healthcare facilities, water infrastructure, civilian energy infrastructures, and primary and secondary educational facilities;
  • Require the President to report to Congress after issuing sanctions on:

o   the expected goals,
o   other means the President considered to achieve those goals,
o   the reason for choosing sanctions,
o   how the sanctioned entity would be able to remove the sanctions,
o   whether other countries are also sanctioning the entity and, if not, why is the U.S. acting alone, and
o   guidance for humanitarian, peacebuilding, and financial institutions;

  • Require the Government Accountability Office to issue impact reports of the sanctions on humanitarian and economic situations in the targeted country and in the U.S.; and,
  • Require the State and Treasury Departments to report on the measure’s compliance with the U.S.’ international treaty obligations.

Take Action:

Call or write to your Representative and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 5879 – Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act. | Congressional switchboard: ‭(202) 224-3121‬

Sample script:

“Hello, my name is [your name] and I am a constituent of Representative [your representative’s name].  I am calling to ask the Representative to cosponsor H.R. 5879 – the Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act. The bill helps Congress reclaim authorities of sanctions, restores access for life-saving humanitarian aid, and requires impact assessments on sanctions. Over the last several years, many experts and organizations have highlighted the fact that sanctions are not achieving their goals and are harming innocent civilians. Please cosponsor the bill and send a written response to my request to [your email or mailing address]. Thank you.”

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Humanitarian Assessments of Sanctions in the National Defense Authorization Act

This year, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require impartial assessments of the impact of sanctions. The assessments would review the goals behind sanctions, the progress toward those goals, as well as, the impact on civilians, humanitarian assistance, civilian infrastructure, and the environment.

Take Action:

Call or write to your Representatives to keep this amendment in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. | Congressional switchboard: ‭(202) 224-3121

Sample script:

“Hello, my name is [your name] and I am a constituent of Representative [your representative’s name].  I am calling to ask that the Representative support an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that calls for impartial assessments of sanctions. The amendment was introduced by Representative Tulsi Gabbard and would require an assessment of the goals behind sanctions, the progress toward those goals, as well as, the impact on civilians, humanitarian assistance, civilian infrastructure, and the environment. Please support these provisions and send a written response to my request to [your email or mailing address]. Thank you.”

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Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act (ENKHA) – H.R. 7218 (House version)/S. 3908 (Senate version)

ENKHA was introduced by Representative Andy Levin in the House and Senator Ed Markey in the Senate. The bill is meant to help humanitarian workers deliver aid more effectively. The bill aims to address sanctions measures and travel restrictions that slow and sometimes stop humanitarian operations.

If passed, the bill would:

  •       Streamline permissions for aid shipments;
  •       Expedite permissions for humanitarian travel to North Korea;
  •       Require the administration to report to Congress on the efficacy of humanitarian exemptions to U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Take Action:

Tell your Senators and Representative to cosponsor H.R. 7218/S. 3908 – Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act (ENKHA).

You can take action here.

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Congressional Letter Urging Sanctions Waivers for Coronavirus Aid

The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant economic crash have created monumental challenges for every country on Earth. But these crises are not affecting all people or all nations equally. Some are facing additional hurdles as a result of broad-based economic sanctions imposed by the United States. Although intended to influence the policies of governments, these sanctions can have harmful impacts that reach far beyond their intended targets, often claiming the lives of innocent men, women, and children.

People in countries such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea are struggling to obtain essential food and medical supplies. Even where technical exemptions are in place, the fear of secondary sanctions has had a chilling effect on humanitarian transactions by governments, financial institutions and relief organizations.

A bipartisan solution: Issue a temporary general license (or exemption) that supports humanitarian aid related to COVID-19.

The U.S. Treasury Department has the power to issue a worldwide, temporary waiver or ‘general license’ authorizing the exportation and re-exportation of medical supplies, equipment, and other essential goods that might otherwise be prohibited by sanctions.

By making it clear these types of financial transactions are allowable, this license would aid in the donation or sale of items such as test kits, respirators, sanitizers, personal protective equipment, and medicine, which are all critical for preventing and treating COVID-19.

Learn more here.

Take Action: 

Call or write to your Representative asking them to sign Congressman Chuy Garcia’s letter which urges Secretary Mnuchin to issue sanctions exemptions for COVID-19 related humanitarian aid. | Congressional switchboard: ‭(202) 224-3121‬

Sample script:

“Hello, my name is [your name] and I am a constituent of Representative [your representative’s name].  I am calling to ask that the Representative sign a letter authored by Congressman Chuy Garcia. The letter calls on Secretary Mnuchin to issue a temporary worldwide general license to exempt COVID-19 related humanitarian aid from sanctions. The letter points out the long held bipartisan consensus that humanitarian aid should not be politicized – especially in the midst of global pandemic. Please sign the letter and send a written response to my request to [your email or mailing address]. Thank you.”