Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said now that the Obama administration has reached a framework deal with Iran, it’s time for Congress to do its duty and take steps to weigh in.
Menendez’s statement didn’t go into details of the deal, though he’s previously spoken out about things that were included in it — from enrichment capability to the length of the deal to the folly of thinking that sanctions can be snapped back into place.
The senator said the plan announced by the administration “deserves rigorous review and analysis.”
“In the coming days, this preliminary understanding will receive close scrutiny, and for that reason, Congress must fulfill its oversight responsibilities. That begins with taking up on April 14 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” he said, referencing the Corker-Menendez bill that gained Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a co-sponsor last week.
“If diplomats can negotiate for two-years on this issue, then certainly Congress is entitled to a review period of an agreement that will fundamentally alter our relationship with Iran and the sanctions imposed by Congress,” Menendez continued. “The best outcome remains a good deal that ends Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program. That requires a strong, united, and bipartisan approach from the Administration and Congress.”
His co-sponsor on sanctions legislation, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), declared in a statement that “Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler.”
“Under today’s deal, the United States and its international partners will dismantle the sanctions regime against Iran, while Iran, the world’s biggest exporter of terrorism, will be allowed to keep vast capabilities to make nuclear weapons,” Kirk said.
Menendez’s co-sponsor on the review legislation, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said they “must remain clear-eyed regarding Iran’s continued resistance to concessions, long history of covert nuclear weapons-related activities, support of terrorism, and its current role in destabilizing the region.”
“If a final agreement is reached, the American people, through their elected representatives, must have the opportunity to weigh in to ensure the deal truly can eliminate the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and hold the regime accountable,” Corker said. “Rather than bypass Congress and head straight to the U.N. Security Council as planned, the administration first should seek the input of the American people.”
The chairman stressed “growing bipartisan support” for his bill. “I am confident of a strong vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes it up on April 14,” he said.
And the Democrat taking over Menendez’s top spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stressed “there is no trust when it comes to Iran.”
“Congress has a role to play in this process and I look forward to reviewing all the details of this long-sought agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry and our allies have negotiated,” Cardin said.
Another key Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said he “will advocate that Congress have an appropriate role in scrutinizing this framework and any final agreement.”
“This framework may reflect progress towards stopping a nuclear-armed Iran – a vital national interest – but it must be carefully reviewed and assessed,” Blumenthal said. “As a supporter of strong and strengthening sanctions, I believe these strictly-enforced economic measures brought Iran to the table. My views on best next steps will depend on an in-depth review of the framework’s details.”
And yet another Dem, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), said he looks “forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that Congress’ voice is heard in this process.”
“As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have urged Administration officials to not make any concessions on breakout timeline and capacity, centrifuge research and development, or the duration of any deal,” Coons said. “While I support the Administration’s efforts to seek a negotiated path towards ending Iran’s illicit nuclear program, I have also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who shot to mainstream media fame and MSNBC derision probably faster than any freshman senator after he helmed an open letter to the leaders of Iran, said “there is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons.”
“Iran will keep a stockpile of enriched uranium and thousands of centrifuges—including centrifuges at a fortified, underground military bunker at Fordow. Iran will also modernize its plutonium reactor at Arak. Iran won’t have to disclose the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, despite longstanding UN demands. In addition, Iran will get massive sanctions relief up front, making potential ‘snap-back’ sanctions for inevitable Iranian violations virtually impossible,” Cotton said.
“…These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior. Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East. And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) found it “unsettling” that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain in place. “Congress needs to weigh in on any decision to soften sanctions on a country whose leader has recently said ‘death to America,’ while simultaneously requesting additional nuclear capability,” Burr said. “This deal could lay the foundation for a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region in the world.”