President Obama signed a bill into law Friday, authored by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to essentially bar Iran's proposed United Nations ambassador from entering the United States.
The measure, which easily passed the Senate and House by voice vote last week, denies admission to U.N. ambassadors who the president deems have been engaged in terrorist activity against the U.S. or its allies.
Last week, the U.S. decided not to issue a visa to Iran's ambassador pick, Hamid Aboutalebi, who was part of the group involved in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. But White House press secretary Jay Carney had previously stopped short of saying the president would sign the bill into law, as it was being reviewed for its constitutionality.
But even as Obama signed the bill Friday, he made it clear that he would continue to treat the underlying Foreign Relations Authorization Act section the Cruz bill amends as "advisory" in cases that it would undermine his constitutional authority to receive U.N. ambassadors, as George H.W. Bush pointed out when he first signed the act into law.
"Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress's concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation," Obama said in the statement. "Nevertheless, as President Bush also observed, 'curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.' "
The Cruz measure closely mirrors a House bill that Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., introduced in early April.
Aboutalebi has downplayed his role in the hostage crisis, saying he was primarily a translator and negotiator. He previously served as a European Union ambassador.