The announcement of a final nuclear deal on July 14 prompted mixed reactions from members of Congress. House Speaker John Boehnor (R-OH) said, "if in fact it’s as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we’ll do everything we can to stop it.” Senate minority whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), however, said "I commend our negotiators for this critical effort. Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.”
Once the official document is delivered to Congress, lawmakers will have 60 days to review the agreement, according to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that was signed into law in May. If lawmakers disapprove, they can pass a resolution to block the deal from being implemented. President Obama, however, has said he will veto any efforts to block the deal. Congress would then need a two-thirds majority to override the veto.
The following are excerpted remarks from lawmakers on the final nuclear deal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
“The comprehensive nuclear agreement announced today appears to further the flawed elements of April’s interim agreement because the Obama Administration approached these talks from a flawed perspective: reaching the best deal acceptable to Iran, rather than actually advancing our national goal of ending Iran's nuclear program.
“The Senate must now weigh why a nuclear agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world's leading state sponsor of terror. We’ll hold hearings and examine the agreement, including several aspects that are particularly integral to understanding what concessions the Iranians were able to secure from the Obama Administration...The test of the agreement should be whether it leaves our country and our allies safer.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX)
“From the beginning there has been bipartisan concern with how the Obama Administration has approached these negotiations. Iran has done nothing to demonstrate to the American people that we should trust them. Unfortunately, this deal abandons longstanding U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in favor of one that merely delays it.
“While the Obama Administration might think any deal is better than no deal, allowing Iran a clear path to develop nuclear weapons would sacrifice sound policy for a short-sighted political victory for the President. Thanks to a strong bipartisan vote earlier this year, we will now put this deal under the microscope on behalf of the American people, and if it jeopardizes our national security interests, Congress may have no choice but to vote it down.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
“Today’s historic accord is the result of years of hard work by President Barack Obama and his administration. The world community agrees that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable and a threat to our national security, the safety of Israel and the stability of the Middle East. Now it is incumbent on Congress to review this agreement with the thoughtful, level-headed process an agreement of this magnitude deserves.”
Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL)
“The United States, working with our allies, has reached a historic agreement with Iran that, according to President Obama and Secretary Kerry, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I commend our negotiators for this critical effort. Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.”
Democratic Policy Committee Chair and Senate Banking Committee Member Charles Schumer (D-NY)
“Over the coming days, I intend to go through this agreement with a fine-tooth comb, speak with administration officials, and hear from experts on all sides. I supported legislation ensuring that Congress would have time and space to review the deal, and now we must use it well. Supporting or opposing this agreement is not a decision to be made lightly, and I plan to carefully study the agreement before making an informed decision.”
—July 14, 2015, in a statement
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
“You know, at the outset of the Iran negotiations, the Obama administration said that a good deal would affirm that Iran does not have the right to enrich. They also said that keeping sanctions in place until Iran met concrete, verifiable standards. And, they believed that they had to stop Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.
“Listen, the president has abandoned all of those goals, and that’s why the deal that we have out there, in my view, from what I know of it thus far, is unacceptable. It’s going to hand a dangerous regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief while paving the way for a nuclear Iran.
“This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s not a partisan issue at all. It’s about right versus wrong. And we’re going to do everything we can to get to the details. And, if in fact it’s as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we’ll do everything we can to stop it.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
“As I—and the President—have said before, no deal that allows Iran to get nuclear weapons is acceptable. A nuclear Iran would put America and our allies at grave risk. Congress intends to thoroughly review this deal, as provided for in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. The details are critical to understanding what concessions this Administration has made and how damaging they will be to U.S. national security interests around the world. Nothing in the deal announced today eliminates Iran’s ability to eventually become a nuclear threshold power. It just delays the day and rewards the Iranians with billions of dollars in sanctions relief until that day comes.
“This Administration has said repeatedly that no deal is better than a bad deal. Now, they must be held accountable. We already know that as a result of this deal, the U.S. and our allies will be forced to confront a richer, more resilient Iran that will continue its quest for regional hegemony. Congress must and will take time to properly review this deal, but early reports are gravely disconcerting."
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)
“The Obama Administration wanted a deal with Iran at any cost, and they got one -- at a dangerous cost. In their rush to strike a deal, the only thing they have managed to accomplish is to build upon the concessions granted in April’s deeply flawed nuclear framework with Iran. I was strongly opposed to the Obama Administration’s capitulation to Iran in April and I remain so today. Iran is a rogue regime that sponsors terror, threatens the security of America and our ally Israel, and works to destabilize the entire Middle East region. Congress has been crystal clear up to this point: Iran must not have the capability to develop and build a nuclear weapon. This deal allows them to get up to the one yard line without cheating. If allowed to move forward, history will look back on this bad deal as the sanctioned beginning of Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. I will do everything I can to fight the implementation of any deal that exposes Americans to unacceptable risks."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
“The historic nuclear agreement announced today is the product of years of tough, bold and clear-eyed leadership from President Obama. I commend the President for his strength throughout the historic negotiations that have led to this point. I join him in commending Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz for their leadership.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States, unacceptable to Israel, and unacceptable to the world. Aggressive restrictions and inspections offer the best long-term plan to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Congress will closely review the details of this agreement.
“We have no illusions about the Iranian regime – or the destabilizing influence Iran continues to have in the region. We must maintain our vigilance. All options remain on the table should Iran take any steps toward a nuclear weapon or deviate from the terms of this agreement.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
“With the announcement today of an agreement with Iran, it is now up to Members of Congress to work carefully through every detail, particularly given Iran’s likelihood to exploit any ambiguity or loophole to its benefit and to the detriment of the security of America, Israel, and our allies in Europe and the Gulf. I have been very clear about what I believe must be included
, and I will now be examining the agreement unveiled today to see if it meets those criteria.
“I am pleased that the White House worked with Senators Cardin and Corker to ensure that Congress will have the opportunity it deserves to review this agreement. As Congress now turns to the business of examining this agreement with great scrutiny, I want to express my appreciation to the countless U.S. officials who have been working tirelessly on these negotiations.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ)
“The most concerning concessions – on sanctions, sunset, inspections and verification, research and development, and Iran’s enrichment capability, among others – were made long ago. To those concessions, it now appears that the Administration has made still more, especially the repeal of the international arms embargo on Iran. The result, I fear, is that this agreement will strengthen Iran’s ability to acquire conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, while retaining an industrial scale nuclear program, without any basic change to its malign activities in the Middle East."
“Ultimately, the problem with this agreement is that it is built far too much on hope – on the belief that somehow the Iranian government will fundamentally change in the next several years, such that it can be trusted with a growing arsenal, a huge influx of cash, and the infrastructure of a nuclear program. This is delusional and dangerous, especially as we see Iran on the offensive in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and elsewhere in the region. Instead, I fear this agreement could undermine the very goals we have maintained for 35 years – weakening the Islamic Republic, constraining its threatening influence, strengthening Israel and our Arab partners, lessening regional tensions, and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI)
“This agreement demonstrates the power of American-led diplomacy and establishes a strict and robust monitoring and verification system. If fully implemented, this deal will help control Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.”
“As President Obama points out, the accord is not built on trust, but on verification. Any attempt by Iran to break the rules or covertly pursue nuclear weapons must be met with swift, forceful, and decisive action by the United States and the international community.
“In the weeks ahead, Congress has a solemn obligation to carefully review the details of this historic agreement and to independently confirm that we are meeting our common goal of stopping Iran from building a nuclear weapon and making our nation, and the world, a safer place.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN)
“I want to read the agreement in detail and fully understand it, but I begin from a place of deep skepticism that the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In the coming days, Congress will need to scrutinize this deal and answer whether implementing the agreement is worth dismantling our painstakingly-constructed sanctions regime that took more than a decade to establish. Iran continues to be the lead sponsor of terrorism in the world and relieving sanctions would make the Tehran regime flush with cash and could create a more dangerous threat to the United States and its allies."
“Throughout these negotiations, I have expressed significant concerns to the administration about the crossing of red line after red line as we have moved from a goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear capabilities to managing its proliferation."
—July 14, 2015, in a statement
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD)
“It is in America’s national security interest that Iran is blocked from ever having a nuclear weapon. Congress has an obligation to vigorously and judiciously review the deal announced today with a seriousness of purpose. Negotiators have spent painstaking time and untold effort working on this accord. Congress in turn must fulfill its oversight responsibilities and conduct a thorough, rigorous, and evenhanded review. There is no trust when it comes to Iran. In our deliberations we need to ensure the negotiations resulted in a comprehensive, long-lasting, and verifiable outcome that also provides for snap-back of sanctions should Iran deviate from its commitments. Congress faces a solemn charge that I expect will be fulfilled to the best of our abilities and at the highest of standards beginning today.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX)
"Mr. President: Now that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany (the “P5+1”) and Iran have reached an agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we write to urge you to delay any action by the United Nations Security Council to approve of the deal – including a significant weakening of the U.N. arms embargos on ballistic missiles and conventional weapons – until the Congressional review is complete. Simply, the United States Congress should be given the opportunity to consider the final text of this hugely consequential agreement before action at the United Nations.
Any U.S.-supported effort to lift UN sanctions before Congress has weighed-in on the terms of the agreement would undermine our oversight responsibilities and violate the spirit of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which you signed into law. It is distressing that your Administration would afford Russia and China the opportunity to vote on the final agreement before the American people’s representatives do. The full 60 day review period and parliamentary procedures prescribed by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act should be allowed to play out before action at the Security Council.
Moreover, while we understand that you intend to veto any joint resolution of disapproval that Congress may send to your desk, it would be entirely inappropriate and divisive for your Administration to vote to lift UN-backed sanctions should Congress reject the final agreement and override a presidential veto to that effect."
—July 16, 2015, in a joint letter to President Obama
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY)
“When sanctions are eased, then Congress must use every tool at our disposal to prevent Iran from plowing its newfound wealth into violence and turmoil. Just last week, Syria’s President Assad accepted a $1billion line of credit from Iran to help sustain his murderous regime. Iran has transferred millions to Gaza in recent months, which will help Hamas rebuild the tunnels it uses to kidnap, kill, and terrorize Israelis. We need to make sure that a nuclear deal doesn’t make these problems worse.
“As Congress reviews this deal, we will have to consider what the alternatives are. We will not be choosing between this deal and a perfect deal. And if this deal goes through, Congress must be ready if Iran fails to comply with the agreement. In that case, we can’t only rely on snapback sanctions provided for in the agreement. Congress should be ready to complement those provisions with increased pressure on Iran. A good starting point would be the Nuclear Free Iran Act, which Chairman Royce and I passed in the last Congress. This legislation would target Iran’s remaining oil exports, prevent access to its overseas reserves, and blacklist certain strategic sectors of the Iranian economy. The House passed this legislation by a vote of 400 to 20 in July 2013.
“If Iran fails to comply and the international sanctions regime collapses—and that’s a real possibility, given recent actions by Russia and China—we will have to consider the whole range of options if Iran races toward a bomb. A military strike would have severe consequences for our allies and interests in the region, and is by no means the only alternative to a deal. But a credible threat to destroy Iran’s nuclear program must remain on the table, as it always has been.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
"If Iran decides to build a nuclear weapon, this deal only extends the timeline for Iran to break-out by 9 months – and that assumes that the agreement is being implemented precisely by all parties, which is dubious when we know Iran failed to adhere to the terms of the interim deal. In exchange, Iran will receive billions in sanctions relief, a windfall to pursue its aggressive, destabilizing agenda in the region and beyond. Whatever the claimed gains we get from this deal, it clearly does not outweigh the risks to the security in the region and to the United States and its interests."
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA)
"I applaud the Administration for all of its hard work. From the harsh sanctions that brought Iran to the table, to the strenuous and lengthy negotiations that have brought us to this point, the Administration has worked tirelessly to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"I look forward to thoroughly reviewing the agreement announced today. We cannot let our desire for a deal allow us to accept a bad deal. And we cannot allow politics to stand in the way of a good deal. In the coming days, Congress will have the opportunity to scrutinize the deal presented today. It is my hope that Congress takes advantage of this time to honestly review the deal and determine whether it is in the best interest of the United States to move forward. This potential agreement comes on the heels of a long history of mistrust and cheating by Iran. Consolation with our allies and a strong inspections and verification regime will be vital to the success of this agreement.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA)
“The Obama administration has achieved the rare feat of uniting Israel with a wide array of Arab nations. Unfortunately, the issue that unites them is opposition to the Iran deal. I don’t know what information the Obama administration possesses that indicates this deal will actually prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon or will cause the mullahs to reduce their support for worldwide terrorism, but it sure isn’t the same intelligence we’re seeing in the Intelligence Committee. Iran has killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers, tried to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States, and is committed to annihilating Israel. This deal will guarantee Iran the capability to carry out its clear intent."
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA)
"As the terms and consequences of this agreement become clear during the period of Congressional review, I would urge my colleagues to give the measure the serious thought it deserves. If the agreement is flawed it should be rejected; at the same time, we must not compare the proposal to an ideal, but rather to any credible alternative. Will rejection of the deal lead to additional sanctions and an Iran willing to concede more, or to renewed enrichment and a path to war? These are the stakes and our decision should be made with sober thought and a minimum of partisan demagoguery."
Senate Armed Services Committee Member Roger Wicker (R-MS)
“I remain skeptical that the Iranian regime will cooperate with international inspectors and live up to its obligations. History has taught us that Iran does not make good on its word, going to great lengths to cover up and deceive the world about its nuclear ambitions and ballistic capabilities.
“This deal is not yet final. Congress and the American people now have the opportunity to review the agreement. Ultimately, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon should be our top priority. I am deeply concerned that this arrangement does not achieve that vital national security goal.”
Senate Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
“Throughout negotiations, I’ve been adamant that the United States must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that hardnosed diplomacy is the preferred means of doing so. Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation, which I supported, that allows the House and Senate to consider this weighty agreement in all its detail. It is critical that Congress take the time necessary to conduct this review. My support for this deal hinges on whether we can verify that Iran’s paths to obtaining a nuclear weapon are thoroughly blocked. I want to congratulate Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz and the rest of the negotiating team for their tremendous persistence in reaching this agreement, and I look forward to a thorough review with my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member Ron Johnson (R-WI)
“I have often stated that I believe this negotiation was lost from the start when President Obama capitulated and agreed that Iran would not have to dismantle its nuclear program. Initial reports of the deal do not change my opinion. That said, I will carefully review the details before rendering my final judgment.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
"I look forward to robust hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, if this agreement is what the Administration says it is, it is a major, historic diplomatic breakthrough."
Senate Banking Committee and Foreign Relations Committee Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
“This is an opportunity for Congress to exert its responsibility to review the agreement and I look forward to thoroughly analyzing the details when submitted because, in this case, how it is written has enormous consequences. But I’m concerned that the deal ultimately legitimizes Iran as a threshold-nuclear state. I’m concerned the redlines we drew have turned into green-lights; that Iran will be required only to limit rather than eliminate its nuclear program, while the international community will be required to lift the sanctions, and that it doesn’t provide for anytime-any-place inspections of suspected sites. The bottom line is: The deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program – it preserves it.”
Senate Banking Committee Member Mark Kirk (R-IL)
“I am gravely concerned that the nuclear agreement will condemn the next generation to living with an Iranian nuclear power in the Persian Gulf and ultimately endanger the security of the United States, Israel, and other regional allies over the long term.
“This agreement will enrich and empower Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, because it will dismantle the international sanctions regime against Iran, give Iran back over $100 billion in frozen assets, and lift a U.N. arms embargo that has banned Iran from buying and selling conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.
“Worse, this agreement will pave Iran’s path to nuclear weapons because it requires Iran to take temporary and reversible steps that keep it at the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons, and will allow Iran to obstruct and veto inspections at suspect nuclear facilities instead of imposing zero-notice nuclear inspections anytime and at any place in Iran, including military sites.”
Senate Banking Committee Member Dean Heller (R-NV)
“I have some serious reservations regarding the deal reached on Iran’s nuclear program and will review it carefully, as will the public. For more than three decades, America has stood up against Iran and implemented sanctions enacted by Congress to prevent them from further developing a nuclear weapon. Yet, this work may be unraveled by an agreement that crosses red lines the U.S. had previously set, putting our nation and its allies like Israel at risk,” said Senator Dean Heller. “I’m sure this is a proud day for the Iranian negotiators. The leadership our nation now needs is for Congress to act decisively in the review process to ensure we are doing everything within our power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.”
Senate Banking Committee and Armed Services Committee Member Tom Cotton (R-AR)
“The deal announced by President Obama today is a grievous, dangerous mistake. It will give Iran tens of billions of dollars to finance its sponsorship of terrorism against the United States and our allies. It will lift embargoes on conventional weapons and ballistic-missile sales to Iran. And, ultimately, it will pave the way for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. If this deal is approved, it will represent a historic defeat for the United States.
“When I was a platoon leader in Iraq, my soldiers and I faced deadly roadside bombs, made and supplied by Iran. I tried to reassure them, but I could only tell them to hope it wasn’t our day to die by Iran’s roadside bombs. If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, I fear the United States will only be able to hope it isn’t our day to die by an Iranian nuclear bomb.
"If President Obama wants to liken this deal to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty then he should have followed our constitutional process and negotiated it as a treaty. Instead, he went at it alone and is now threatening to veto any attempts by Congress to conduct oversight. Over the coming weeks, I will work tirelessly to protect America from this deal and to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear-weapons capability. I am confident that the American people will repudiate this dangerous deal and Congress will kill the deal.”
Senate Banking Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence Member Mark Warner (D-VA)
“I will review this agreement with the utmost attention to detail, given the incredible importance of getting an agreement of this magnitude right. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which I supported, Congress will have 60 days to analyze this agreement and carefully consider whether it substantially advances the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. In particular, I will pay close attention to the dismantling of Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons program; ensuring an intrusive and reliable verification process; and ensuring a graduated process of sanctions relief entirely dependent upon Iran’s compliance, along with a process for re-imposing U.S. and international sanctions if Iran violates terms of the agreement.”
Senate Banking Committee Member Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
"A nuclear-armed Iran represents a significant threat to the United States, to our allies in the Middle East, and to the world. Diplomacy represents our best hope of ending that threat, far better than the alternative of escalating tensions and war. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and Secretary Moniz deserve great credit for working with our allies to reach a negotiated solution to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran without resorting to military action. In the coming weeks, I look forward to reviewing the details of this agreement to determine whether they are tough, verifiable, and effective."
House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
“As expected, the Obama administration has capitulated to the demands of the Iranians and has negotiated a weak and dangerous nuclear deal that undermines our national security and poses a threat to our allies in the region, especially the democratic Jewish State of Israel. We were repeatedly and forcefully told in Congress that this deal would only cover Iran's nuclear program, but now it is clear that Obama has agreed to lifting all UN Security Council sanctions, including the arms embargo on Iran and its ballistic missile technology.
“The President has moved the goal post back so many times on his own previous red lines on the nuclear deal that now Iran gets to keep its facilities at Fordow and Natanz and its Arak reactor will remain open for business. This deal sets in place every key component of a nuclear program that Iran needs to develop a weapon and, according to reports, the only mechanism for inspections will come as a result of consultations with Iran. Iran has been caught cheating throughout the negotiations, but the Obama administration has not been open or forthcoming. Obama officials have come to Iran’s defense every time so it will only embolden Iran to continue its illicit activities. Congress must do our due diligence to examine this deal before the President can take it to the UN for a binding vote.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Brad Sherman (D-CA)
“A comprehensive agreement, even if it is a better-than-expected agreement, does not end our problem with Iran’s nuclear program, to say nothing of Iran’s other nefarious activities. An agreement with Iran will only buy us time. We will need both constant focus on enforcement, as well as continued efforts to stop Iran’s support for terrorism and its efforts to undermine allies and friendly countries in the Middle East.
“If the deal does not provide fully adequate safeguards for decades to come, then Congress must make sure that it is not binding on future Congresses and future Administrations.”