Hostage Recovery Bill Championed by Florida Delegation Heads to Donald Trump’s Desk

This week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill strongly supported by the Florida delegation to put more pressure on Iran for the disappearance of Robert Levinson, a Florida resident who has been missing in that Middle Eastern nation for 13 years and is now assumed dead.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., brought out the “Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act” which “cements in place programs to address hostage-taking, and gives the United States government new tools to rescue hostages and punish their captors.” The bill sanctioned individuals who take Americans hostage, elevates the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to the rank of Ambassador and creates an inter-agency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell and a Hostage Response Group.

Among the bills supporters are U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.. and Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Michael Waltz, R-Fla., and Joe Wilson, R-SC.

Deutch, who leads the U.S. Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, was able to get his bill through the U.S. House on a voice vote back in March. This week, the Senate passed the bill without opposition. It now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Rubio and other Senate backers weighed in on the bill after it cleared the upper chamber.

“Earlier this year we received the tragic news about Bob Levinson, the longest-held American hostage. It is our hope that no American family will ever have to endure what the Levinson family went through. This important bipartisan bill will help ensure that American hostages are brought back home safely and able to reunite with their families,” Rubio said. “I urge my colleagues in the House to take swift action and pass this important bill and send it to the president for signing.”

“I was honored to lead this fight in the Senate, but this important day belongs to the family and friends of Bob Levinson,” Menendez said. “Year after year, they fought valiantly and with great tenacity and devotion, to gather information about Bob’s whereabouts and to bring him home. It is their determination and sacrifice that served as the foundation for this legislation, which will address both the wrongful imprisonment of Americans like Bob Levinson, and the hostage-taking of Americans like James Foley.”

“This is an important step in our efforts to prevent the unlawful detention and hostage-taking of American citizens abroad,” Coons said. “This bipartisan bill honors Bob Levinson, who was held hostage in Iran for over a decade, by strengthening our ability to bring Americans like Bob home and hold their captors accountable.”

“Any time an American citizen is held unjustly, it demands the attention and full weight of the United States government to secure their freedom,” Shaheen said. “This legislation reaffirms our country’s commitment to bring Americans home safely and bolsters diplomatic powers for the president and administration to use to compel their release. I’m pleased we were able to pass this bill in the Senate on a bipartisan basis and hope it will soon be considered in the House and sent to the president’s desk.”

The Florida delegation has worked together in recent years to pass resolutions in both chambers of Congress demanding Iran offer more assistance in getting Levinson back home. Levinson worked for the FBI and DEA went missing in 2007 during a private investigation case in Iran involving cigarette smuggling. Back in 2013, the Associated Press ran a story insisting Levinson worked for the CIA.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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