Key Dem Explains Iran 'No' Vote: Must Send Constitutional Message that Deal Is Not Binding

The Democratic ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific came out against the Iran nuclear, marking the latest defection from the administration position after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) became a “no” vote.


Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who has a long legislative history of battling the mullahs in Tehran, is also the second-ranking Democrat on the full committee behind Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who also came out against the deal last week.

Sherman called the P5+1 agreement “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

“It contains the good and the bad in the first year, and gets ugly in the years thereafter,” he said. “The Good: Iran gives up 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium and decommissions 2/3 of its existing centrifuges. The Bad: Iran gets access to at least $56 billion of its own currently-frozen funds, and free access to the international oil markets. The ugly: In 15 years or less, Iran is permitted to have an unlimited quantity of centrifuges of unlimited quality, as well as heavy water reactors and reprocessing facilities.”

Sherman stressed “we must force modifications of the agreement, and extensions of its nuclear restrictions, before it gets ugly.”

“My efforts have one purpose: Make it clear that future presidents and Congresses are not bound by this agreement—not legally, not morally, not diplomatically,” he added.

“Under International Law and the U.S. Constitution, the agreement is a mere ‘executive political agreement’ and is not binding on America, Europe or Iran. However, if the agreement was not only signed by the president, but also supported by Congress, it may appear binding. Appearances matter. In future years, many would argue as long as Iran appears to be complying with the agreement, America cannot insist on modifications or extensions of nuclear restrictions. A strong congressional vote against the agreement is the best way to make it clear that the agreement is not binding on Congress, the American people or future administrations.”


Sherman began his statement by quoting himself in 1997: “Iran…a country whose nuclear development program is the greatest threat to the physical security of Americans.”

He listed additional concerns about the agreement, including no “provisions helping us to monitor shipments or financial transactions between Iran and North Korea.”

“As we focus on Iran’s nuclear program, we cannot ignore Iran’s support for the brutally murderous regime in Syria that is killing thousands of people every month. Nor can we ignore their support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, and Hamas and the Houthi rebels. Nor can we forget about the four American hostages Iran is holding,” Sherman said.

“No matter what the status of the nuclear agreement, Congress must adopt sanctions designed to force Iran to change its ‘non-nuclear’ behavior—to stop supporting Assad and terrorist groups, and to free the American hostages. Next month I will introduce legislation to impose sanctions on Iran designed to change its non-nuclear behavior.”

Sherman had previously suggested in committee hearing that a different procedural strategy than disapproval of the agreement was needed, but said he now thinks Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-Calif.) resolution of disapproval, which will be voted on after Congress returns from recess next month, is the best route.


“It is now clear that Democratic and Republican opponents of the agreement have united behind Royce’s procedural approach, and I will join them,” he said.

“The president reminds us that many prominent critics of the agreement supported the invasion of Iraq.  It should be noted that many supporters of the agreement also supported the invasion of Iraq, including: Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry and Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.”

A year ago, Sherman was blasting the administration’s handling of Iran negotiations and sanctions repeal, noting “the imperial presidency grows further.”


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