APN Legislative Round-Up: Jan. 22, 2016 (published early due to blizzard)

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

 

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(SETTLEMENTS=ISRAEL) S. Res. 346:  Introduced 1/20 by Rubio (R-FL), Wyden (D-OR) and Risch (R-ID), “expressing opposition to the European Commission interpretive notice regarding labeling Israeli products and goods manufactured in the West Bank and other areas, as such actions undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” This is the Senate version of H. Res. 567, introduced 12/16/15 by Lowey (D-NY) and currently having 10 cosponsors (covered in the 12/31/15 edition of the Round-Up). Rubio’s press release touting introduction of the resolution is here. APN strongly opposes this resolution. We previously called on House members to refuse to cosponsor it and oppose it if it is brought up for a vote (text of our message was included in the 12/31/15 Round-Up, here) and we are now also calling on Senators to do the same.

(FIXING VISA WAIVER PROGRAM MESS) S.2449: Introduced 1/20 by Flake (R-AZ) and 2 cosponsors, “to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to remove limitations on the ability of certain dual citizens from participating in the Visa Waiver Program.”  Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. As noted in Flake's press release, this legislation would leave in place the restrictions on the VWP for people who have traveled to Iran.  Flake offered similar text this week as an amendment to HR 4038 (a bill that got blocked in the Senate). The Flake bill is the companion legislation to HR 4380, introduced 1/13 by Amash (R-MI) and 3 cosponsors (see the 1/15 edition of the Round-Up for details). See NIAC Action, which is supporting both bills, for additional details

(FIXING VISA WAIVER PROGRAM MESS?) S.2458 Introduced 1/20 by Cardin (D-MD), “to amend section 217(a)(12) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, relating to the restriction of the use of the Visa Waiver Program for aliens who travel to certain countries.” Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. (Note: As of this writing text of S. 2458 is not available, so it cannot be confirmed if this bill is related to concerns about how the new Visa Waiver law effects people with legitimate reasons to travel to places like Iran).

(IRAN DAMAGES OWED TO AMERICANS) S.2452: Introduced 1/20 by Moran (R-KS), “to prohibit the use of funds to make payments to Iran relating to the settlement of claims brought before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal until Iran has paid certain compensatory damages awarded to United States persons by United States courts.”  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

 

Letters:

(TELL AMBASSADOR SHAPIRO TO STOP BEING MEAN TO ISRAEL!) Roskam letter:  On 1/20, Rep. Roskam (R-IL) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing his “alarm and disappointment” over comments made by U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro at a conference in Tel Aviv (the full text of Ambassador Shapiro’s speech can be read here).  The starting point of Roskam’s lengthy letter is: “Ambassador Shapiro troublingly questioned Israel’s ‘long-term intentions’ openly cast doubt upon the seriousness of its desire to reach peace with the Palestinians. These remarks do not reflect reality, yet they serve to empower those who wish to delegitimize and marginalize the Jewish state…”  Roskam closes by encouraging Kerry to “reject these misguided comments and reaffirm our unbreakable support for Israel.” Roskam appears unaware that Shapiro’s remarks are in large part almost verbatim the same as ones made by Kerry in his 12/15/15 speech at the Saban Forum (including the concern about Israel’s “long-term intentions”). Roskam press release on the letter is here.

(OBAMA – WAIVE NEW VISA WAIVER PROGRAM RULES THAT HURT AMCITS) Huffman et al letter: This week, Rep. Huffman (D-CA) is seeking cosigners on a letter urging President Obama to asking him to “utilize all available authorities to ensure the VWP amendments do not broadly and unfairly harm dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan as well as foreign travelers to Iran or Americans engaged in journalism, humanitarian aid, or related activities in a restricted country. “See NIAC Action, which is supporting the letter, for additional details.

(HOLD IRAN ACCOUNTABLE FOR MISSILE TESTS) Perdue et al letter: On 1/15, 13 GOP senators, led by Perdue (R-GA), wrote to President Obama expressing concern about Iran’s ballistic missile testing and asking the president to provide them with “a roadmap of what you consider to be illicit behavior by Iran, and what sanctions or punitive steps will be taken in the event such behavior.” Report on the letter in The Hill is here.

 

2. Hearings

1/27: The House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security will hold a hearing entitled, “Seeking Justice for Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel.” No further details are available as of this writing.

1/27: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations will hold a hearing entitled, “The Growing Threat of Cholera and Other Diseases in the Middle East.” Witnesses will be: Peter Hotez, Sabin Vaccine Institute; Issam Raad, Health Outreach to the Middle East; and J. Stephen Morrison, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

1/26: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, “Jordan: A Key U.S. Partner.” Witnesses will be: Gerald Feierstein, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs;  Mona Yacoubian, Deputy Assistant USAID Administrator for the Middle East; and Beth Tritter, Vice President of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

1/26: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats will hold a hearing entitled, “Turkey: Political Trends in 2016.” Witness announced so far are: Nate Schenkkan, Freedom House; and Gonul Tol, Middle East Institute.

1/20: The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S. Strategy and Policy in the Middle East.” Witnesses were: General John M. Keane, USA (Ret.), Chairman, Institute for the Study of War and Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (testimony); Ryan Crocker, Dean and Executive Professor, The George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University and Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (testimony); and Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow, The Council on Foreign Relations and Former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (testimony).

1/20: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Middle East After the JCPOA.” Witnesses were Michael Singh, WINEP (testimony) and Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress (testimony).

 

3. On the Record

Isakson (R-GA) et al 1/20: Senators Highlight Positive News for Victims of 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis on 35th Anniversary of their Release (Isakson’s floor statement is here).

Coons (D-DE) 1/20: Long floor statement laying out the achievements of the JCPOA but warning against dangers of Iran bad behavior. His conclusion: “America must reassure our allies that we will not waver in our commitment to push back on Iran, its nuclear program, and its destabilizing actions in the region. Our partners, our allies--and Iran--must know and believe through our words and our actions that we are serious about preserving the long-term stability of the Middle East and that Iran--a revolutionary regime--does not share our values or that goal. As part of this effort, we must reassure, reaffirm, and strengthen our support for our vital ally, Israel. As the administration negotiates a new, long-term memorandum of understanding to provide Israel with the security assistance it needs to protect itself in the most dangerous neighborhood on Earth, we must insist that joint U.S. and Israeli strategic planning includes protection of Israel from threats it faces from neighboring instability in Syria. We must not allow Israel to be attacked by Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. We must work closely with the Israelis to share intelligence and intercept any weapons shipments from Iran to its regional proxies. If we fail to push back on Iran and enforce the terms of the nuclear deal, not only will the agreement collapse, but our efforts to show the world that diplomacy actually works will be dealt a dangerous blow as well. In the weeks and months to come, I call on the administration to do more to push back on Iran, and I call on my colleagues--Republicans and Democrats alike--to come together, to be engaged, and to remain focused on enforcing the terms of this nuclear agreement, on containing Iran, and on deterring their bad behavior, their support for terrorism, their support for human rights violations, and their relentless effort to develop and advance ballistic missile capability...”

Thune (R-SD) 1/20: “…Over the weekend, the world witnessed another byproduct of President Obama's failing foreign policy. Thanks to a provision of the President's flawed nuclear deal with Iran , more than $100 billion of frozen Iranian assets and oil revenue were made available to the Islamic Republic of Iran . This means that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, including the Quds Force--which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq--just received a big influx of cash. Again, this is thanks to the deal President Obama considers to be perhaps the major foreign policy achievement of his Presidency. While I am glad that the hostages held by Iran are coming home to their families, it is a mistake to think this means Iran all of a sudden will now play nice. Iran's leadership knows very well that it won the lottery with this nuclear deal, and it desperately wants Iranian assets unfrozen and sanctions lifted. Now that the Iranian leadership has received its payout, Iran will be further emboldened. When negotiating this deal, the Obama administration assured Congress that the United States would make sure Iran kept its end of the bargain. Well, it is already clear from October's ballistic missile test that Iran is determined to test the President's resolve and flout international restrictions. We cannot let those provocations go unanswered…”

Durbin (D-IL) 1/19: Powerful floor statement on Iran policy (excerpt: “…A simple question to the critics of the Iran nuclear agreement: Today, is Iran closer or further away from the development of a nuclear weapon? The answer is that it is further away. There is no other reasonable conclusion. Do you remember the speeches given by Prime Minister Netanyahu and many of the critics of this agreement? They were telling us that Iran was weeks away from developing a nuclear weapon. Now by consensus we believe they are at least 1 year away from developing a nuclear weapon if they completely walked away from this agreement. Without a nuclear weapon, Iran is not the same kind of threat to the Middle East, Israel, or to the world. All of what I said has been verified by international inspectors. Do you recall Ronald Reagan reminding us to trust but verify? We verified. The agreement gives inspectors continued access in perpetuity. In a few months, Iran has gone from a breakout time of a nuclear weapon from a month or 2 to at least 1 year. Quite simply, under Barack Obama's Iran nuclear weapon agreement, their program has finally been brought to a halt without firing a shot--something no previous administration had been able to accomplish. That such a difficult task was accomplished is a testament to the tireless work of our former colleague and current Secretary of State John Kerry and his team. This Senator thinks of all those who worked so hard on this for so many months to achieve it. Tough diplomacy has also brought home a number of Americans who were unjustly held in Iran . These Americans had not even left Iranian airspace before many of the Republicans running for President unleashed another wave of worn-out rhetoric criticizing the President's effort that led to the release of these Americans being held prisoner. They also failed to offer a substantive alternative approach. Let me remind the naysayers that it was Ronald Reagan who traded weapons to Iran for seven American hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Lebanon--not a handful of nonviolent sanctions violators but weapons to what was then our arch enemy who had only recently held more than 60 American diplomats as hostages for 444 days. By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped by the Reagan administration to Iran and only 3 hostages had been released. They in turn were replaced with three more, sadly, in what then-Secretary of State George Shultz called ‘a hostage bazaar.’”

McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 1/19: “This week the international sanctions against Iran were lifted, but I have not lessened my determination to hold Iran accountable for its support of terrorism and anti-Israel extremists. I am supporting H.R. 3662, The Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act, that sanctions those Iranians who finance terrorism, violate human rights, or are involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction…”

Price (D-NC) 1/19: “The Iranian regime's compliance with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the subsequent implementation of the next stages of this agreement mark historic progress toward preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. I was also pleased to learn that the Iranian regime has released four American prisoners who had been held in Iran on dubious political charges. Last fall, I joined several colleagues from the Senate in urging the release of these Americans and other political prisoners in talks with high-level representatives of the regime. I continue to urge the release of all Americans unjustly imprisoned in Iran.  We must remain vigilant in holding Iran accountable for its human rights abuses and sponsorship of terrorism, which threatens the security of our allies in the region, and I support the Obama administration's imposition of new sanctions to punish the regime for its recent weapons tests. But I strongly believe that our diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue can provide new opportunities to cooperate with Iran not just in overcoming its bad behavior, but also in areas of mutual interest, including combating the threat posed by ISIL.”

Gardner (R-CO) 1/19: “U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) called the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal a 'tragic mistake' this weekend, warning that its ramifications will be felt in the region and worldwide for years to come.”

Hurd (R-TX) 1/19: Oped – “Obama should pursue sanctions against Iran”

Reid (D-NV) 1/19: Floor statement: Iran Will Continue To Be Held Accountable (excerpt: “We are now at the beginning of a critical period where Iran must allow unprecedented inspections designed to allow the international community to know if Iran tries to break out and race toward building a nuclear weapon. Iran poses a threat to our nation’s most supportive ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel. Over my four decades in Congress the safety and security of the Israeli people have been of the utmost important to me. We must strive to protect the Israeli people. That’s why Iran must be held accountable for any action it takes that poses a threat to Israel. Iran must never obtain a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead… I look forward to working with my colleagues to keep Iran accountable and preserve the national security of both this nation and our ally, the State of Israel.”)

Pelosi (D-CA) 1/18: “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.”

Lowey (D-NY) 1/17: “…as the U.S. provides sanctions relief in exchange for Iran taking a number of steps to roll back its nuclear program, we cannot forget Iran's long history of deception, state support for terrorism, and human rights abuses. That's why I called for punishment for Iran's ballistic missile testing last fall, and I'm pleased the President has announced new sanctions today. We must also work with our partners in the region to mitigate the negative impact from the influx of cash likely to start entering Iran in the coming weeks and months.  As the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee,  I remain firmly committed to Congress' oversight of the Iran nuclear agreement and to holding Iran accountable to all of its international commitments.”

Walorski (R-IN) 1/17: “Since the Obama administration finalized the nuclear agreement with Iran this summer, Iran has continued behaving in a deeply disturbing and aggressive manner.  Despite the administration's best efforts to portray this deal in positive light, the facts on the ground and in recent headlines continue telling a different story. That was further highlighted by this week's ridiculous detention of ten U.S. Sailors during which they were publicly humiliated and forced to apologize on Iranian television. This event, among many others in the months since the agreement, should be a stark reminder of the threats posed by this regime. Yet, even with all we know, President Obama is moving forward in providing the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism with sanctions relief this weekend.  As Iran begins to see nearly $100 billion begin flowing back into their coffers, I remain committed to doing everything in my power to prevent these funds from being applied to the production of nuclear materials, acquisition of military goods, or support for terrorist organizations around the globe. This regime has never proven themselves trustworthy and I do not expect anything to change once they are $100 billion richer.”

Byrne (R-AL) 1/17: “I fear we will one day look back on this deal as a stark failure of U.S. foreign policy. The deal requires us to trust Iran, and their actions have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted. This deal gives billions of dollars to the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, and it fails to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Nothing about that is good for the American people or our allies in the Middle East. Let’s not forget that a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives voted last year to halt this bad deal. As the deal moves forward, Congress must continue to provide diligent oversight and do everything in our power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Huffman (D-CA) 1/17: Rep. Huffman Applauds Jason Rezaian’s Peaceful Release from Iran

Carper (D-DE) 1/17: “This is an important day for American diplomacy. This summer, after years of difficult negotiations, the United States and its international allies brokered a historic deal to cut off Iran’s pathway to a nuclear bomb and, today, we’ve begun to see some of the fruits of that labor. Following many months of intrusive inspections, international weapons inspectors have concluded that Iran has followed through on its pledge to dismantle the large portions of its nuclear program that were not clearly intended for peaceful purposes. This is an incredible development, especially because of estimates by the intelligence community that the Iranian regime was mere months away from a nuclear bomb, threatening the security of the United States, Israel and other allies around the globe…”

McCaul (R-TX) 1/17: “I have said from the start that the Iran deal was little more than a negotiation with terrorists. And now with its implementation, we can see clearly one of the dangers it will bring to the free world. The Administration is unfreezing billions of dollars for the Iranian government, which will enhance its bankrolling of terrorism, perpetuate its repression, and fuel its efforts to oppose America and our allies in the region and beyond. Incredibly, the Administration has even made a direct payment of $1.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars to Iran. History will not be kind in judging this blatant appeasement of a rogue regime. That is why we will continue to do everything we can in Congress to check Iranian aggression and to prevent the White House from treating America’s adversaries like its allies.”

Royce (R-CA) 1/17: “It is a huge relief that these Americans are finally coming home.  The torture and pain these citizens had to endure over their long years of captivity in Iran is unimaginable.  All of them should have been unconditionally released a long time ago. Period.  Instead, a disturbing pattern is emerging where the Obama administration is willing to negotiate the release of spies, terrorists and now criminals.  I fail to see how this trend will improve the long-term security of the United States and its citizens.  The Obama administration will need to answer why this policy won’t encourage terrorist groups and regimes to step up their efforts to target Americans.  And the Iranians still need to answer for Robert Levinson, an American citizen who has been missing in Iran since 2007.”

Engel (D-NY) 1/17: “I applaud today's announcement of new sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile program. Iran's missile program poses a direct threat to our allies and continues to destabilize the region.  Iranian leaders should be on notice that the nuclear deal won't excuse their continued dangerous behavior. With the nuclear deal now in place, we must be more vigilant than ever to hold Iran to its commitments and continue to crack down on its harmful activities.”

Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) 1/17: “…I supported the JCPOA because I believe it is the best way to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. Of course, there is still critical work ahead of us, and I continue to remain deeply concerned with Iran’s steadfast support of terrorism and tolerance for human rights abuses. With Iran’s nuclear program at bay, we must focus our attention on bringing these additional threats to our security and the security of our allies to a screeching halt. I was pleased to see the Obama Administration announce on Sunday that it would be imposing additional sanctions on entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, an issue I and several of my colleagues raised with the President earlier this month.  It is of utmost importance that we continue to maintain and enforce other sanctions on Iran for its continued support of terrorism around the world and ongoing violations of human rights…Today marks an opportunity for Iran to indicate to the entire international community how it will behave on the world stage with slightly opened doors. Its leaders should have no doubt that the United States and our allies will not hesitate in responding to continued aggressions and destabilizing behavior when it is necessary.”

Royce (R-CA) 1/16: “The Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Tehran trades temporary restrictions on Iran for permanent sanctions relief.  That’s why bipartisan majorities opposed this agreement in Congress…Iran will use this deal to become more militarily aggressive and dominate the region.  In selling this agreement, President Obama pledged to keep the pressure on Iran for its destructive behavior. Yet it is Iran that has pressured the administration to drop new sanctions against its missile program and then announced its acceleration.  This flawed deal is only entrenching Iran’s military and security forces that run the country.  Now more than ever, we need a policy of backbone, not backing down.”

Sherman (D-CA) 1/16: “This is a swap, not a gift. This is a significant victory for those of us who care about the American hostages and their families. It is also a significant victory for an Iranian regime that has helped kill thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Syrians. This deal will help Iran develop missiles and nuclear weapons in three ways:  Iran is subject to limitations on purchase of nuclear and missile technology and needs expertise to evade these controls.  First Iran benefits from this deal by showing all those in its evasion network that if they get caught, they will be rescued.  Second, the 7 individuals being released will provide Iran with significant expertise in how to evade missile and nuclear control sanctions and how not to get caught next time. Third, this deal helps Iran's economy.  European businessman will feel a little bit safer in flying to Tehran.  Also, it will be harder to pass new sanctions in Congress on Iran because the hostages were the simplest and clearest reason to do so. This prisoner swap may be part of a good foreign policy if we impose new sanctions designed to punish Iran for its illegal missile tests and dissuade Iran from killing thousands in Syria and Yemen.”

Ryan (R-WI) 1/16: “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."

Hoyer (D-MD) 1/16: “…While news of our citizens’ release is cause for joy, developments today regarding Iran’s implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ought to be greeted with abundant caution.  It is a very positive step that Iran’s possible breakout timeline has now been moved back from just weeks to a full year, but with the pressure of sanctions removed, we can expect its leaders to exploit any loophole to violate the agreement in letter or spirit.  That’s why the United States and our international partners need to maintain the strictest verification and enforcement regime possible and be ready to respond decisively in the event of a violation.  We must also continue to enforce existing sanctions relating to Iran’s support for terrorism and its pursuit of ballistic missile technologies and monitor closely how Iran uses the resources it will receive as a result of implementation…”

Salmon (R-AZ) 1/16: “News of the Islamic Republic of Iran's agreement to free four American citizens today could not be more welcome…But in addition to the release of over $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets, assets which will likely be used to fund terrorism once they're repatriated into Iran, the Administration has now released seven individuals who violated sanctions against Iran and agreed not to pursue 14 Iranians wanted for trafficking arms.  While I welcome this excellent, if tragically delinquent, news of our Americans' release, I hope the administration takes a renewed interest in protecting U.S. national security from an aggressive Iranian regime who I have every expectation will continue to wreak havoc around the globe with their state sponsoring of terrorism.”

Nunes (R-CA) 1/16: “Today, Iran--the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism--will receive sanctions relief from the U.S. and the international community for allegedly taking steps to scale down its nuclear program. It is almost impossible to verify these actions, and we remain highly skeptical that the regime will follow through on any agreement. In the past month, Tehran has repeatedly violated international law, including testing ballistic missiles, seizing U.S. personnel, and firing rockets near U.S. ships. It is clear that the nuclear agreement has emboldened the regime, a foreseeable outcome that drove Congress to oppose the nuclear deal in the first place. As Iranian hardliners, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, reap the financial windfall of this agreement and use it to meddle in places throughout the world, the United States must be prepared to confront further Iranian aggression.”

Smith (R-NJ) 1/16: “It is good to see the release of American hostages jailed illegally in Iran for far too long. I'm happy for them and their families and note that Pastor Abedini's release coincides with Religious Freedom Day. But I don't understand why the Administration is swapping prisoners when Iran will get $140 billion dollars today in a flawed nuclear deal. The release of funds to the Iranian government—required by President Obama’s pact with Iran—will only empower it to expand its terrorist reach. If emerging reports are true, this prisoner swap may only serve to further undermine trust that the Administration will take a hardline with Iran if it violates agreements,” said Smith. “Not all Americans were freed in this swap. Robert Levinson, missing since 2007, was not included in this deal for some unknown reason. In addition, the Administration reportedly delayed imposing any new sanctions for the test-firing of its ballistic missiles because the Iranians threatened to scuttle the prisoner swap. You can’t make a bad deal better by making concessions, it only shows weakness, not strength.” 

Ryan (D-OH) 1/16: “Today, we look forward to five brave Americans finally coming home. For too long these Americans have been separated from their friends, families and loved ones, and I am forever grateful that this nightmare is finally being brought to an end. For the second time this week, we have seen American diplomacy succeed, bringing peaceful resolutions to conflicts that only a few short years ago could have resulted in armed intervention. On Wednesday, the United States successfully negotiated the release of ten Navy sailors who were detained by Iran overnight. Neither of these conflicts could have been resolved without the United States leading the way and bringing China, Russia, Iran and the international community to the table to achieve the landmark Iran Nuclear Agreement, and the willingness and patience to allow international diplomacy to succeed. We urge Iran to continue to cooperate with the United States to determine the whereabouts of missing American Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007.”

McCarthy (R-CA) 1/16: “Iran has repeatedly demonstrated that it has no respect for international agreements and no desire to be a peaceful and stabilizing force in the region. President Obama’s decision to implement the Iran nuclear deal will enrich the Iranian regime—a regime that fires rockets near our aircraft carriers, forces our sailors to their knees at gunpoint, has held our citizens hostage, and has repeatedly tested ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Iran has not been held accountable for its actions and there is no indication that President Obama will hold them accountable in this failure of a deal. The Ayatollah and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) henchman are growing more emboldened by the day. The President is enabling the Iranian regime by surrendering to them a nuclear weapons capability while giving them billions in sanctions relief, helping Iran in its path to dominating the Middle East. This action is an economic stimulus for the world’s central banker of Islamist terror and will endanger America and our allies.”

Ellison (D-MN) 1/16: “The release of Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedni, Nosratollah Khosravi, and Matthew Trevithick is a triumph of diplomacy. For too long, these men have been separated from their families and loved ones. But because of President Obama’s commitment to engage and build diplomatic relations with Iran, their imprisonment has ended. With the release of these prisoners, and the final implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is clear that diplomacy should always be our first approach. Isolation and antagonism rarely result in peace and stability. Congratulations to their families, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and everybody else worked tirelessly for their release.”

Kennedy (D-MA) 1/16: “Implementation of the JCPOA ensures that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.  By shipping over eleven tons of uranium to Russia, removing the core of the Arak reactor and dismantling thousands of centrifuges, Iran is no longer on the verge of becoming a nuclear power.  I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz on a historic accomplishment. While I am encouraged that Iran has complied with the terms of the agreement and released five Americans held prisoner without justification, our work is only now beginning.  Successful implementation of the JCPOA presents a significant opportunity for Iran to reenter the global community and invest in its people.  I hope Iran's leaders make that choice.  If, however, Iran chooses to test the international community by breaking the agreement, continuing its support for terrorism or blatantly violating UN Security Council resolutions, it must be met with a strong and swift response.  Congress needs to continue to pay close attention and provide the administration the resources necessary to ensure full compliance of the accord. This is a historic day but we must remain vigilant in enforcing this deal in the years ahead.”

Foster (D-IL) 1/16: “The announcement from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has fulfilled its initial commitments outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a major victory in the effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Under the historic agreement, Iran has reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to below 300kg, decommissioned more than 12,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, and destroyed the capability of the heavy water reactor at Arak to be used to produce large quantities of Plutonium. As the only Ph.D. scientist in Congress, I have felt a special obligation to be fully engaged in the Congressional oversight process of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Through more than a dozen individual classified briefings by the technical experts who supported the negotiating team, I have concluded that this agreement is our best chance at preventing Iran from developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon.  This is not the end, but just the beginning of our work. Continued vigilance and adequate funding for the IAEA will be essential. As we look to the future, we must continue to work with our partners and allies in the region to ensure that Iran and the international community are bound by much stronger and more verifiable nonproliferation agreements…”

Sullivan (R-AK) 1/16: “We are all relieved that five Americans, unjustly imprisoned by Iran, are on their way home…But I’m outraged that it appears that at least one American still remains in captivity, that our fellow citizens endured harsh treatment at the hands of the Iranians, that it took so long to get them home, and that their freedom appears to have involved a swap and concessions that will further put our country and our allies at risk. I certainly hope that Secretary of State John Kerry or others in the Obama Administration won’t again express ‘gratitude’ and appreciation toward Iran for unlawfully taking the freedom of our citizens.”

Schakowsky (D-IL) 1/16: “Today is a proud day for American diplomacy and for global security as the Iran agreement has been officially implemented. This deal was the end product of a long process that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The IAEA has certified that Iran has met its obligations: dismantling 13,000 installed centrifuges, shipping almost all of its stockpile out of the country, rendering its Arak reactor inoperable, and complying with inspections. In addition, the IAEA has concluded its investigation into possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program. The long awaited release of five American prisoners held by Iran is welcome news, timed to coincide with the implementation of the agreement. Improved U.S. relations with Iran also allowed for the speedy return of sailors who were held after being taken in Iranian waters. While implementation day marks an important first step, the work of making sure that Iran fully adheres to it is just beginning. In addition, we must not allow the deal to be a cover for Iran to take aggressive actions outside the nuclear deal that can destabilize the region. For example, Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles is deeply disturbing and must be addressed. The United States and the P5+1 worked hard and long for this day, and now the international community must continue to work together to ensure that our diplomatic efforts succeed.”

Cardin (D-MD) 1/16: “The release of five innocent Americans from Iran is a day for all Americans to celebrate their long and overdue return home. Painstaking effort and the unwavering determination put forward  by Secretary of State Kerry, former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and countless others to ensure these brave Americans were freed is a credit to our nation’s finest diplomats. Amidst the most trying and time consuming negotiations with Iran, the safety and freedom of our countrymen was a priority of our diplomatic agenda. These Americans and their family members have endured tremendous hardship and immense anguish for far too long. This painful chapter in their lives is about to close and I hope everyone affected can seek some comfort in knowing that leaders in the U.S. government and communities across the country never gave up hope and did not rest until these Americans were freed.”  

Tester (D-MT) 1/16: “The nuclear agreement with Iran may not be perfect but right now it's helping make our world a safer place. We must remain vigilant in enforcing this deal because Iran can't be trusted, while also recognizing that we're finally beginning to hold this hostile nation accountable.”

Menendez (D-NJ) 1/16: “Although I disagree with the details of the Iran deal, the United States and the international community must be completely focused on ensuring that Iran is held accountable for meeting all of its terms under the JCPOA. Unfortunately we’re already making concessions in that respect… The Administration has at its discretion the tough sanctions it needs to deter these malign activities, and the Administration has conceded that invoking non-nuclear sanctions for specific malign activities like test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles would not violate the terms of the JCPOA.  We should use these tools now, unapologetically, to protect American national security interests. We must also refrain from shortsighted thinking and look to the future.  The Iran Sanctions Act, which expires at the end of the year, is an effective snap-back measure.  I again call on the Administration to support the bill I introduced in the Senate to renew those sanctions.  And beyond renewing them, I believe we need to aggressively implement them, particularly in cases where Iran clearly violates international will. The United States must stop allowing Iran to test our limits unchecked.”  [emphasis added]

Corker (R-TN) 1/16: “…“Today cannot be the beginning of the United States and Europe turning a blind eye to the troubling threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. I opposed this flawed agreement, and fear its implementation shifts the leverage to Iran as sanctions are lifted in exchange for only limited and temporary restrictions, allowing Iran to industrialize its nuclear enrichment capability after a decade. Now armed with an initial windfall of more than $100 billion, Iran will have vast new resources to continue sponsoring terrorism, threatening its neighbors, and funding its nuclear and missile programs. The U.S. and our European partners must impose swift and immediate consequences for any violations or acts of Iranian aggression to ensure Tehran will not use the deal as cover to advance its dangerous activities. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee already is involved in a vigorous oversight process and is considering legislative proposals to ensure Iran continues to be held accountable. We will use all the tools provided by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to quickly impose new sanctions should Iran breach the terms of the agreement.” [emphasis added]

Lee (D-CA) 1/16: “Yesterday's announcement by the IAEA, as well as the release of 5 Americans unjustly held in Iran, shows that diplomacy works. As someone who has long advocated for negotiations with Iran,  I am encouraged that Iran has complied with the international agreement to dismantle its nuclear program. Additionally, the quick release of ten American sailors who unintentionally drifted into Iran's waters shows that our two nations have opened a new, more cooperative chapter. I applaud Administration's and Secretary Kerry's tireless efforts to secure this deal that makes our world safer. We must continue to pursue all diplomatic avenues to ensure peace and global security.”

Ross (R-FL) 1/16: “I am very grateful Iran released the four U.S. prisoners it has been unjustly holding hostage. However, this ‘swap’ of prisoners between Iran and the U.S. is not equal. Iran did not take these U.S. prisoners hostage because they did anything wrong. Iran took these innocent Americans to show its hatred toward the U.S. and hold them as ransom.  By contrast, the prisoners held in the U.S. being released in this exchange were held on legitimate charges related to sanctions against Iran, and now they are getting off scot-free. Iran is trying anything and everything to expedite its sanctions relief, except actually eliminating its nuclear weaponry and denouncing its terrorist regimes and plans against the U.S. and our allies. The President must stop turning a blind eye to Iran's conniving antics and increase sanctions against the largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

Engel (D-NY) 1/16: “…My main concern now is what Iran’s leaders will do with the resources that will start flowing after sanctions are lifted.  Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, so I worry that this newfound wealth will end up in the hands of those who want to harm the United States and our friends.  That’s why I’m working on bipartisan legislation that will crack down on Iran’s destabilizing behavior and will help enhance the security of Israel and our other allies in the region.  I’m confident that we can work across the aisle and with the Administration to achieve this goal.” [emphasis added]

Ross (R-FL) 1/16: “Today is a sad day for protecting America and the world from terrorism and countries who promote and execute such evil atrocities, like Iran. In exchange for Iran's 'compliance' with the poorly negotiated Iran Nuclear Deal, the U.S. will lift the crippling economic sanctions it had imposed on Iran that prevented it from building a nuclear bomb. These are the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. By unfreezing more than $100 billion in assets, Iran will now not only be able to invest more heavily on building its nuclear weaponry, but it will also most certainly further fund terrorist organizations and rogue regimes to kill Americans and innocent victims throughout the world. It is absolutely absurd the President believes Iran has complied with the nuclear deal. Iran has blatantly violated this deal multiple times by conducting missile tests to perfect its nuclear weapons technology, as well as has increased its military presence in Syria and surrounding countries. Iran will no doubt thank us for our 'help' in executing its next terrorist attacks and the construction of its nuclear weapon stockpile. I promise I will keep fighting to stop the largest state sponsor of terrorism from harming our country, its people and its allies. I pray God continues to keep us safe from harm."

Durbin (D-IL) 1/16: “When the Iran nuclear agreement was signed experts believed that Iran was only weeks away from developing a nuclear weapon. Because of this historic agreement; the removal of twelve tons of fissile material; the destruction of 13,000 centrifuges; the permanent disabling of the deadly Arak plutonium reactor and the long term presence of international inspectors, Iran is now at least one year away from developing a nuclear weapon.  The Middle East is safer. Israel is safer. The world is safer because of this Iran nuclear agreement. Nevertheless, a non-nuclear Iran is still a threat to America's interests and values. We must continue to pursue an aggressive policy of monitoring and containing their efforts to threaten our allies and promote terrorism. We can only hope that the spirit of this nuclear agreement will lead to the day when Iran becomes a nation we can trust and work with for positive goals. Until then we must be vigilant and only trust what we can verify.”

Toomey (R-PA) 1/16: Lifting Iran Sanctions Jeopardizes U.S. Security

Stivers (R-OH) 1/16: “North Korea has shown that not every country has peaceful nuclear ambitions. The President and Secretary of State are under the false assumption that they have secured 'peace for our time' with their Iran deal, when in reality they have done quite the opposite.” [Note: that’s the entire statement, not at excerpt.]

Roby (R-AL) 1/15: “We cannot afford to be naïve when it comes to Iran. I’m working to build support for legislation that would prevent President Obama from irresponsibly and unilaterally lifting sanctions on Iran. We could vote on the bill before the end of January, and I hope Congress can send a strong bi-partisan message that it’s time to hold Iran accountable for its actions.”

 

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