In a resolution passed Friday on a 397-17 vote, the House also urged Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to declare before the vote that he intends to dismantle terrorist organizations.
It said any Hamas participation in the government of the Palestinian Authority "will potentially undermine the ability of the United States to have a constructive relationship with or provide further assistance to the Palestinian Authority.”
In response, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said it was one of the most important decisions.
"Abu Mazen (Abbas) must understand that he needs to make an immediate decision now – is he giving into Hamas or going with the international community's objection to terror," he said.
"Hamas participation in elections will bring about the establishment of 'Hamastan' in the territories, which could bring us back 50 years. Now is the time to make a strategic decision - to declare and dismantle terror infrastructures and to go to elections with the intention of advancing to negotiations with Israel for peace," he added.
However, Meretz-Yahad Charmain Yossi Beilin said that the strengthening of the Hamas movement in local elections is "the result of Sharon's policies was concerned with destroying the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure over the past five years."
'A fundamental contradiction'
Rep. Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said Hamas is projected to hold more than a quarter of the 132 seats on the Palestinian council. The State Department lists Hamas as a terror organization.
Hamas' prospects to win more seats may have improved after young activists in the ruling Fatah party broke away Wednesday to form their own faction, a blow to Abbas going into the Jan. 25 vote.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday a fundamental contradiction is involved when a terrorist group wants to keep open an option to use violence to kill innocent civilians at the same time it wants to participate in the political process.
“That's a fundamental contradiction that the Palestinian people need to resolve," he said.
He said U.S. Policy on Hamas was unchanged. "It's a terrorist organization; we don't deal with it.”
Lantos said, "when terrorist militias participate in elections, voters are intimidated. The concepts of the will of the majority and the rights of the minority are rendered meaningless.”
He said Hamas should be disqualified on two grounds - as a terrorist group and as a group that denies Israel's right to exist.
“There is a third reason as well," he said. "Hamas is a fundamentalist, jihadist organization that has nothing but contempt for democracy, though it is more than happy to exploit democracy for its own nefarious ends.”
Terror organizations plan to hijack elections
Rep. Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, said the resolution takes a united stand “against the attempts of the murderous Islamic extremist organizations to hijack the elections."
She said Hamas participating in the voting "will destroy any hope for peace and security for Israel.”
President George W. Bush has said Hamas "terrorists are preparing a future of oppression and misery.”
The House resolution, which has more than 150 sponsors says the participation of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority government "will inevitably raise serious questions for the United States about the commitment of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership to making peace with Israel.”
Ros-Lehtinen said a mistake already was made this summer when Lebanon allowed Hezbollah, another Islamic group, to participate in elections despite its refusal to disarm and dismantle its infrastructure in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.
The United States continues to deal with the Lebanese government even though Hezbollah has a seat in its Cabinet.