Implementation Day: Congress Reacts

The implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the world's six major powers prompted mixed reactions from U.S. lawmakers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the United States is "on track for full implementation of this historic agreement and greater security and stability in the Middle East.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, emphasized that "A bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject this deal in the first place, and we will continue to do everything possible to prevent a nuclear Iran." In September 2015, Senate Democrats had blocked a Republican-led effort to reject the agreement.

Implementation Day was triggered on January 16, when the U.N. nuclear watchdog certified that Iran had fulfilled its obligations under the nuclear agreement. As a result, Iran is to receive relief from nuclear-related U.S., E.U. and U.N. sanctions. 

Implementation Day coincided with the release of four Iranian-Americans - Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari - as part of a prisoner swap with Iran. Most lawmakers welcomed the exchange, but Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused the Obama administration of setting a "dangerous precedent." The following are statements from U.S. lawmakers.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Member of the Select Committee on Intelligence
“I am pleased that Iran has taken the required steps under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Once again, strong U.S. diplomacy has made the world safer, with Iran’s breakout time extended from a few months to a year.
“We must remain vigilant, however, to ensure that Iran complies with the agreement as we move forward, as well as other international laws and norms. I support the Administration’s decision to move forward with designations in response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests.
“I am also pleased that five Americans are finally being released after being unjustly held by the Iranian regime. My thoughts are with them as they return to their families. We must continue working to make sure all Americans held or disappeared in Iran are found and returned.‎”
—Jan. 17, 2016, in a statement
Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Member of the Appropriations Committee
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Member of the Foreign Relations Committee
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Member of the Budget Committee
“I think what we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran.”
“Understanding that Iran’s behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with, their support for terrorism, the anti-American rhetoric that we’re hearing from of their leadership is something that is not acceptable.”
“On the other hand, the fact that we’ve managed to reach an agreement, something that I’ve very strongly supported that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we did that without going to war.”
“I think the goal has got to be as we’ve done with Cuba, to move in warm relations with a very powerful and important country in this world.”
 – Jan. 17, 2016, in a presidential debate
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
Member of the Armed Services Committee

Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Member of the Armed Services Committee



“I want to start with words of thanksgiving. We have just gotten the news that Pastor Saeed and three other Americans are apparently coming home from Iran. And I simply say praise God.”

“We don't know the details of the deal that is bringing them home. And then it may well be that there are some very problematic aspects to this deal. But at least this morning, I am giving thanks that Pastor Saeed is coming home.”

“It is far later than it should have been, but we will be glad to welcome him home with open arms.”
—Jan. 16, 2016, to reporters

Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Member of the Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence

“Thankful that prayers have been answered and Pastor Saeed, Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian and another American will finally come home.”
“Iran needs to also help locate Floridian Robert Levinson. This hostage-taking must stop.”
“And we should not be involved in swaps. These things should never happen is my point.”
“The fact of the matter is that this tells us all that we need to know about the Iranian regime. That they take people hostage in order to gain concessions. And the fact that they can get away with it with this administration is one of the reasons.”
“I think this has created incentives for more governments to do this around the world.”
—Jan. 16, 2016, to reporters
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
“A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the United States and unacceptable to the world.  Thanks to the strong strategic leadership of President Obama and his Administration, including Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz, we have reached today's milestone, and are on track for full implementation of this historic agreement and greater security and stability in the Middle East and around the globe.”
– Jan. 16, 2016, in a statement 
“Iran's release of the five Americans is overdue but joyous news.  Throughout these Americans’ long and unjust captivity, we have seen the abiding strength and courage of their families.  We join in heartfelt celebration as they are finally reunited with their loved ones.
“Their release has been a key priority of President Obama.  Today is a credit to the strong diplomacy of the Administration, which has consistently pressed to secure these Americans’ freedom.  I also congratulate Congressmen Dan Kildee and Jared Huffman, who were unwavering in their leadership to bring these Americans home.  Now, the United States will continue to press the Iranians to help locate and safely return missing American Bob Levinson.
“The United States has held a strong line by only releasing individuals convicted of violating sanctions on Iran as our part of the prisoner swap.  While we have no illusions about the Iranian regime, we have once again seen the value of the enhanced diplomatic relationship created through our historic nuclear agreement.”
– Jan. 16, 2016, in a statement
Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Ranking Member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Dan Kildee (D-MI)
Member of the Financial Services Committee
“Amir Hekmati is coming home. I am overcome with emotion that after four and a half years, this terrible ordeal is ending and the Hekmati family will soon be reunited with Amir. We have worked so hard to see this day happen. I am incredibly grateful to everyone, including my staff, who worked tirelessly to secure Amir’s release.
“I am grateful to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the entire Administration for never giving up on Amir and the other Americans that were held in Iran. Their tireless work should be commended.
“Amir, I cannot wait to meet you for the first time, give you a big hug, and welcome you home.”
Congressman Dan Kildee represents the Amir Hekmati family in Congress.
– Jan. 17, 2016, in a statement
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
“Today, the Obama administration will begin lifting economic sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. As the president himself has acknowledged, Iran is likely to use this cash infusion—more than $100 billion in total—to finance terrorists. This comes just weeks after Tehran's most recent illegal ballistic missile test, and just days after the IRGC detained ten American sailors. A bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject this deal in the first place, and we will continue to do everything possible to prevent a nuclear Iran."
– Jan. 16, 2016, in a statement
Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
Member of the Select Committee on Intelligence
Steve Israel (D-NY)
Member of the Appropriations Committee