Deutch, Wilson, Lieu, Waltz Introduce Bill to Strengthen U.S. Hostage Recovery Efforts

Mar 11, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – ​U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33), and Congressman Michael Waltz (FL-06) introduced legislation to strengthen United States government recovery efforts of American hostages abroad.

The legislation would empower the President to impose sanctions on American hostage-takers, elevate the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to the rank of Ambassador, and mandate an inter-agency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell and a Hostage Response Group.

This legislation follows a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism titled “The Status of American Hostages in Iran.” The witnesses included: Christine Levinson, wife of Bob Levinson; Babak Namazi, brother of Siamak Namazi and son of Baquer Namazi; and Omar Zakka, son of Nizar Zakka.

The legislation can be accessed here.

"Americans, like my constituent Bob Levinson, are being held as hostages in countries around the world," Congressman Deutch said. "Bringing Americans home must be a priority, and countries that engage in hostage taking must know that the United States will continue to bring pressure on those who engage in this despicable practice. We introduce this bill named in Bob's honor to elevate our efforts to return American hostages and give the Administration more tools to pressure countries to return Americans to their families."

“None of us can imagine the pain of families whose loved ones are being held hostage in Iran. Today, Congress heard the heart-wrenching stories of family members who have to face this grim reality every day. I am grateful to work alongside Congressmen Ted Deutch, Ted Lieu, and Michael Waltz to stand up for Americans unjustly held in Iran. Iran has been taking hostages as a matter of policy and we must force Iran to change its behavior,” said Congressman Wilson. “I am directly calling for the immediate release of Robert Levinson, Siamak and Baquer Namazi, Nizar Zakka, and all other U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign nationals held hostage in Iran. It’s time Iran and other rogue regimes pay a price for taking Americans hostage.”

“We have a moral responsibility help the American hostages held unjustly around the globe -- we owe it to those suffering in captivity and their families to do all we can to bring them home" said Congressman Lieu. "The U.S. must demonstrate to other countries that we won’t tolerate our enemies holding our citizens hostage. This legislation directs resources to ensure we have a team dedicated to working on bringing hostages home. I’m thankful to join Reps. Deutch, Waltz and Wilson to strengthen our hostage recovery efforts for Americans held abroad.”

“With this legislation we’re calling on our colleagues here in Congress, the Administration, and the American people to join us in putting these rogue regimes and terrorist hostage takers on notice," Congressman Waltz said. "Until now, there’s not been a significant downside or cost to taking an American hostage. This bipartisan legislation would raise the costs and increase the pressure on those who dare take American citizens hostage.”