Congress Takes Action on Iran

July 13, 2016

In the week marking the one-year anniversary of the nuclear deal, Congress prepared to discuss three bills that would impose new sanctions on Iran – all of which President Obama has promised to veto if they are passed. The bills include:

  • HR 5119 - No 2H2O from Iran Act: Prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase heavy water from Iran
  • HR 5631- Iran Accountability Act of 2016: Expands U.S. sanctions on Iran for human rights violations, support for terrorism, and ballistic missile activities
  • HR 4992- United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016: Blocks Iran’s access to the U.S. dollar for financial transactions

On July 11, the White House issued a statement strongly opposing the legislation. “These bills would undermine the ability of the United States to meet our JCPOA commitments by reimposing certain secondary economic and financial sanctions lifted on ‘Implementation Day,’” the statement said. It added that committing to commitments under the deal is “critical to ensuring that Iran's nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful, which is profoundly in the national security interest of the United States and the international community.”

Congress has long sought to assert its influence on Iran policy and establish greater oversight of the nuclear deal. In May 2015, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by Bob Corker (R-TN) that required Congress to review and vote on the agreement. The deal came to a vote in September 2015. But Congress ultimately failed to block it, as Senate Democrats filibustered a resolution of disapproval and prevented it from coming to a vote. Since then, lawmakers have proposed dozens of measures that would impose new sanctions on Iran. The following are quotes from lawmakers on the White House statement and, more generally on the anniversary of the nuclear deal.

Republicans

US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

Capitol dome“The Administration has demonstrated that they do not intend to hold Iran accountable for their dangerous and destabilizing ballistic missile program, global terrorism activities, and atrocious human rights violations that are committed against their own people,”

“We want to penalize the Iranian government for their continued illegal activity.”
-July 11, 2016, said in interview with the Washington Post

“Iran isn’t upholding its side of the bargain.”

“From illicit procurement for its nuclear program to testing ballistic missiles, Iran is showing that it had no intention of ever following international agreements, even ones that granted them enormous concessions.”

“The administration’s decision to continue implementing the deal and ignore Iran’s actions isn’t just delusional, it’s dangerous.”

“Iran must be stopped, which is why we need the sanctions legislation we are voting on this week.”
-July 12, 2016, according to media

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)

“[Iran] has no business gaining access to the U.S. dollar. Iran’s supreme leader can’t be allowed to seek ‘death to America’ with U.S. dollars in his pocket.”
-July 11, 2016, said in interview with the Washington Post

"It makes sense to do all we can to check this very dangerous Iranian activity."
-July 11, 2016, said to the Rules Committee

Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS)

“The Obama administration is acting outside the requirements of the nuclear deal — sending millions of dollars to the Iranian regime. This money makes the United States an active partner in Iran’s nuclear program.”
-July 11, 2016, said in interview with the Washington Post

“Misleading Members of Congress, and the American people, on critical issues of national security, is tragically becoming commonplace for this administration.”

“Although the Obama administration likes to operate as if it is in a vacuum—free of any challenges to its Iran policy—it is not.”

“There are legal checks to President Obama’s power.”

“It is why the people’s elected representatives are again taking a stand against these unwise and dangerous concessions to Iran. We are saying no to U.S. taxpayer dollars going to a state sponsor of terrorism to purchase of nuclear material.”
-July 12, 2016, in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon

“The latest German intelligence report on Iran’s efforts to secure nuclear and missile technology and material is extremely troubling.”

“While the Obama administration deletes public videos and alters transcripts related to the nuclear deal, at least our allies are speaking out on the threat from Iran’s nuclear program.”
-July 12, 2016, according to media

Representatives Peter Roskam (R-Il) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)

“Iran’s commercial aviation sector is deeply involved in supporting hostile actors. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) systematically uses commercial aircraft to transport troops, weapons, military-related parts, rockets, and missiles to hostile actors around the world, including, but not limited to, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthi Rebels in Yemen, and the Bashar al-Assad Regime in Syria.”

“These terrorist groups and rogue regimes have American blood on their hands. Your potential customers do as well.”
-May 3, 2016, in a letter to Boeing

Representative Brad Sherman (R-CA)

“[It is] virtually certain.”
-July 13, 2016, when speaking of the likelihood of Iran’s use of Boeing aircraft for nefarious purposes

Democrats

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee Ted Deutch (D-FL)

“Introducing a bill in the dead of night, without consultation with the minority, unfortunately turns what should be a bipartisan effort into an exercise in election-year politics that leaves Iran free to continue its malfeasance.”

“Doing so prevents us from achieving what should be the real objective: halting Iran’s dangerous actions.”
-July 12, 2016, in a letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Yarmuth (D-KY)

This month, we mark the first anniversary of an historic agreement between Iran and six major world powers. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was designed to force Iran to back away from the nuclear threshold and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons of mass destruction – an outcome that everyone agreed would be disastrous.

Instead of sober reflection on the success of the agreement, where we are, and where we’re going, we will instead spend this week debating legislation designed to have the United States break the terms of the agreement. In a very dangerous world, this agreement makes us a little bit safer. Undermining the JCPOA would be a mistake of tragic proportions.

Today, nearly 14,000 centrifuges have been removed from service and placed under international supervision. Iran has ended all uranium enrichment and removed nuclear material from its once secret facility at Fordow. It’s reduced its stock-pile of enriched uranium from 12,000 kg, with a purity as high as 5%, to only 300 kg, with a purity of no more than 3.67%. The core of the heavy water reactor in Arak has been filled with concrete. So far, Iran has adhered to the agreement. If, however, it reneges, Iran is currently incapable of developing a nuclear weapon for at least one year.

Given Iran’s compliance, the United States has a responsibility to keep its promises, particularly as the U.S. has a history of mismanaging our relationship. We helped the British overthrow the Iranian popularly-elected government in 1953. The United States backed Saddam Hussein in the bloody Iraq-Iran war. Yet, the majority of Iranian people still like Americans.

Not only is the agreement important for controlling nuclear threats and for fostering a better U.S. – Iranian relationship, but Iran is also going to play a key role in the Middle East as the major Shia power. It’s in our interest to work with them towards peace and reconciliation. 

We will vote against efforts to undercut the agreement and urge our colleagues to do the same. After a year, all the evidence supports the agreement working and Iran complying. We are encouraged by the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) reached between Boeing and Iran Air, with Iran Air purchasing 80 passenger airplanes for $17.6 billion and supporting over 100,000 American jobs.

In a troubled world, an opportunity to strengthen ties with a former enemy through diplomacy, trade and job creation should not be a cause for concern – it should be a cause for celebration.
-July 13, 2016, in a letter

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

“Measured by whether the agreement has prevented Iran from developing or obtaining a nuclear weapon, this deal has so far been successful.”

“[The ballistic missile program shows] continued hostile intent and a continued desire to play bigger role as a security threat.”
-July 2016, according to the press

 

Statements on Nuclear Deal Anniversary

 

Republicans

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)

The president’s nuclear deal has only served to bolster Tehran’s terror proxies, ballistic missile program, and oppressive rule over its people. House Republicans are taking action this week to block additional concessions to the mullahs and impose fresh sanctions on the regime for its illicit behavior. The administration should mark this anniversary by reversing course on its dangerous game of appeasing our enemies, but we’re not holding our breath.

– July 14, 2016 in a statement

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations

“We are seeing how Iran continues to push the limits. There’s just no pushback occurring from the administration or other countries. We feel like this is an appropriate way of pushing back.” A new legislation would  enable the US “ to push back against all of the other nefarious activities that we know Iran is involved in in the region.”

-July 14, 2016 on The Tennessean

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Member of the Committee on Armed Services

Now we are one year into the JCPOA. As many commentators have noted, the Iranian leadership’s general behavior — including ballistic-missile tests, capturing and humiliating American servicemen and women, the continuing detention of American service men and women, and the ongoing genocidal rhetoric against the United States and Israel — remains unchanged. But of course the JCPOA deliberately did not cover any of these issues.

—July 14, 2016, in The National Review

 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations

One year ago today, President Obama announced the start of the flawed nuclear deal that he claimed would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has made America less safe. It at best only delays Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and does nothing to protect Israel and our allies in the region from Tehran’s continued nefarious activities. …

Tehran has exploited the JCPOA to destabilize the region and expand its nefarious activities, including provocations against Americans and Israel. Those of us opposed to this fundamentally flawed deal are not going to give up. We will continue to fight to hold Tehran accountable for its actions even if President Obama continues to fail to do so.

—July 14, 2016, in The National Review

Senator David Perdue (R-GA)

Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations

President Obama’s deal was based on a naïve view of Iran and its intentions. Iran has made it clear it wants America to fall and they are determined to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Neither Obama’s rhetoric nor the deal itself have changed that. The president’s deal has also demonstrably failed to deter Iran’s decades-long quest for nuclear weapons.

—July 14, 2016, on Medium

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)

Member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

“Today marks one year since Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  On this date, we ought to take the opportunity not to re-litigate that “political commitment,” but evaluate whether it has helped protect the United States, our people, and our interests.  Unfortunately for our country’s future, the answer to that inquiry is a resounding no.  As a result, Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.”

- July 14, 2016 on Fox News
 

Democrats

Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action enhances our vigilance and strengthens our security with unprecedented limits on and scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Yet, this week, House Republicans are recklessly attempting to undercut this historic agreement with bills designed to undermine America’s national security, damage our global leadership, and shatter America’s relationship with our trusted allies.  Republicans’ reckless bills would lead to the unraveling of the international sanctions regime against Iran.  Dismantling the JCPOA would remove the unprecedented constraints on and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program, and make America, the region, and the world less safe.

We harbor no illusions about the Iranian regime.  The JCPOA is not based on trust.  It is based on verification, vigilance, and enforcement. …

—July 14, 2016, in a statement

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Member of the Committee on Foreign Relations

"The United States must reserve the right to hold Iran accountable for its actions and that is exactly what this legislation will do. We must speak to Iran in the language they understand: There will be consequences.”

- July 14, 2016 on NJ.com
 

Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)

CPC Co-Chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)

“Decades of failed policies had proven that our posturing and bluster did nothing to deter Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Yet in the past 12 months, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has led Iran to abandon their pursuit of The Bomb, dismantle their Arak reactor and thousands of their centrifuges, deplete their stockpiled materials, and open their facilities up to intrusive inspections. JCPOA is a profound achievement for this administration and for the American people – it is a rejection of the failed mantra that we can only have peace through military might, instead proving that all we need to achieve peace is the willingness to have it.”

—July 14, 2016 in a statement

CPC Co-Chair Keith Ellison (D-MN)

“We should all celebrate how diplomacy, not military might, won the day. One year later, we no longer fear the specter of Iran as another nuclear power. Our allies no longer wrestle with the possibility of another destabilizing force in an already unstable region. Without a single shot fired, the power of diplomacy has prevented a nuclear-armed Iran. Let’s pledge to give diplomacy its fair shot in the future. War shouldn’t be our norm. Let’s choose peace.”

—July 14, 2016 in a statement

CPC Taskforce on Peace and Security Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Since the deal went into effect, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has been reduced by 98 percent and two-thirds of its centrifuges have been dismantled. Additionally, Iran’s only source of weapons-grade plutonium has been removed and filled in with concrete.  Taken together, these actions removed any path for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

Quite simply, this deal has made the US and the world safer by dramatically reducing the threat of war and nuclear weapons.

This deal is not a deal based on trust; it’s based on robust verification and enforcement.

Despite the unqualified success of this deal, Congressional Republicans are recklessly trying to undercut it. Their actions undermine our security and damage our nation’s credibility in negotiating future diplomatic agreements.

—July 14, 2016, in a statement

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)