Marco Rubio, Republicans use Iran to attack Patrick Murphy on foreign policy
For months, Republicans have hammered Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for his support of the Obama administration when it comes to Iran policy, and those attacks escalated overnight after Murphy voted with House Democrats to oppose a ban on future cash payments to the Middle East nation.
GOP groups, including Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, are using Thursday night's vote to characterize the Jupiter congressman as "weak" on national security, but Murphy, like other Democrats, argue Republicans are merely playing politics.
Last night Patrick Murphy voted against blocking ransom payments to #Iran.No surprise.He is very weak on national security and terrorism.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 23, 2016
The debate stems from revelations this summer that the U.S. paid $400 million to Iran as part of a decades-old settlement on the same day four American prisoners were released from the country. Republicans have described the transaction as a "ransom" payment, a characterization the Obama administration disputes.
In response to that controversy, though, the Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill -- mostly along partylines with Democrats, like Murphy, opposed -- that would prohibit cash payments to Iran and require congressional notification for any future settlement transactions.
MORE from McClatchy DC: "House approves legislation prohibiting cash payments to Iran"
When asked by the Herald/Times why Murphy opposed the bill, his congressional spokeswoman Erin Moffet initially did not specify the reason for Murphy's vote, but then later explained his position in a follow-up statement.
"It is not in our nation's best interest to tie this and the next president's hands from being able to settle claims, which this politically motivated bill would do by preventing the U.S. government from making future payments – even if required by law," Moffet said.
In her initial statement, Moffet said: "The (Obama) Administration has repeatedly made clear that the funds transferred were a settlement of a long-standing claim at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal at The Hague which dates back to the Iranian revolution."
"As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, the congressman continues to work to hold Iran accountable for its actions and combat its support of terrorism," Moffet said -- adding that Murphy continues to support the Iran nuclear deal, which he believes is "the best available option to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."
For his part, Rubio praised the House for passing the ban on ransom payments. (Rubio introduced a similar measure earlier this month in the Senate, which is now before the Foreign Relations Committee. It has 28 co-sponsors, all Republicans. The House-approved bill has some of the same provisions.)
"Rewarding the ayatollahs with pallets of cash as they continue to take Americans hostage only enriches and emboldens this anti-American and anti-Israel regime," Rubio said in a statement through his Senate office. "The American people deserve better, and Congress must not allow this president or the next to continue sending taxpayer dollars to authoritarians in Tehran seeking to annihilate Israel and kill Americans."
Meanwhile, Rubio's re-election campaign and the Senate Republicans' campaign committee were quick to criticize Murphy's position.
"Patrick Murphy's unwillingness to stop ransom payments to Iran, the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism, further proves his loyalty to President Obama's dangerous nuclear deal with Iran," campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement. "Patrick Murphy's liberal foreign policy views show he can’t be trusted to keep Florida’s families safe."