WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) spoke about the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act as debate began on the Senate Floor.
His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are copied below.
“M. President, I rise in support of bipartisanship and with a sincere hope that we can pass the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act as it was unanimously voted out of Committee.
“I have worked tirelessly with the Chairman and with the Ranking member and with members of the Committee to bring this bill to the floor with the strongest possible bipartisan support.
“In my view, the best way to send a clear message to Tehran about our expectations is for Congress to pass the Corker-Menendez Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act as it was voted out of Committee.
“The spirit of bipartisanship that underscores Congress’ critical role in the highest priority, national security, nuclear-nonproliferation challenge of our time was unanimously proposed in the Foreign Relations Committee and I hope we can send the same message from the floor of the Senate.
“Countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been something I have worked-on passionately and for a long time.
“Senator Corker and I fashioned language that became the framework of this final bill to ensure that Congress remains engaged in reviewing and if there is an agreement, overseeing its implementation. I want to thank Senator Cardin, for his work in helping to forge a deal that both sides of the aisle can come to this floor and support with a clear conscience – knowing that we have sent a clear message to Tehran that we are united – as we always have been on Iran policy.
“On this issue we speak with one voice.
“The simple fact is – if the P5+1 and Iran ultimately achieve a comprehensive agreement by the June deadline – at the end of the day, Congress must make a judgment on it and have oversight responsibility, and this legislation provides it.
“It establishes a managed process for Congressional review and a framework for Congressional oversight.
“M. President, I differentiate between this agreement and others the administration has cited for exclusive executive action because the sanctions relief that is at the heart of this deal was crafted by Congress and enacted by Congress into law. It is primarily statutory…
“And, as the author of those sanctions, working with others, I can tell you that we never envisioned a wholesale waiver of sanctions without congressional input and without congressional action.
“The limited sanctions relief provided in the law was intended to provide the President with discretion to waive specific sanctions in specific circumstances – such as if a country was making real progress in reducing their oil purchases from Iran.
“My goal has always been one goal – and that is to make certain that Iran does not have the infrastructure to develop a nuclear weapon. I have worked toward that goal since my earliest days in Congress.
“Now, as we approach the witching-hour for an agreement, the best way to achieve our goal is with bipartisan support on this legislation that strengthens the United States’ hand in moving from a political framework to a comprehensive agreement, and sets out clear and decisive expectations for Iranian compliance.
“The message we can send to Tehran is that sanctions-relief is not a given. And sanctions-relief certainly is not a prize for signing on the dotted line.
“This bill ensures that Iran must fully comply with all provisions of an agreement that effectively dismantles its nuclear weapons program and provides robust inspection and verification mechanisms to ensure its compliance with every word of the deal.
“If Iran breaches the agreement, Congress will have the ability to restore sanctions on an expedited basis.
“M. President, as I’ve said, I have been outspoken on this issue from the beginning – for years – for as long as I’ve been here.
“Frankly, I have many questions about the framework agreement.
“I have questions about the divergent understandings of the agreement.
“I have questions about the pace of sanctions relief. I don’t believe Iran should get a signing bonus and I’m concerned by the President’s most recent statement that greater sanctions relief could come upfront for Iran.
“I have questions about Iran’s retention of research and development authorities, and to what extent they can advance their research and development. Greater research and development means more sophisticated centrifuges that can spin faster and, therefore, dramatically reduce breakout time toward a nuclear bomb.
“I’m concerned about the ability to snap back sanctions if there are violations of the agreement. From what I can see, we have a Committee process that will not guarantee that the snap back will take place or that it will take place expeditiously.
“I’m concerned about the IAEA's ability to obtain anytime-anywhere snap inspections.
“And what happened to Iran having to come clean about the possible military and weapons dimensions of their program?
“And more than anything else, I’m concerned about what will happen when the critical elements of the proposed agreement expire after 10 years. Are we relegated to accepting Iran as a nuclear weapons state?
“The presumption that Iran will become a compliant Nuclear-Nonproliferation-Treaty-state in that time is not borne out by their insistence and our acquiescence to keeping key nuclear infrastructure and key nuclear facilities under the agreement – nor is it borne out by history.
“Iran has been on a single path toward nuclear weapons for more than twenty years.
“By deceit and deception – sometimes without detection until there were well established covert facilities
– they have advanced their drive for nuclear power to the precipice of achieving a nuclear bomb.
“At a minimum, this legislation gives us the oversight role to monitor and address our concerns.
“I urge my colleagues to support this bill as it was voted out of Committee because it does what all of us want it to do: provide a clear opportunity for a review of any agreement so we can express, if desired, our support or opposition to any agreement and have a clear oversight role with established parameters for compliance.
“Let’s vote on what this agreement does, not what it might have done or could have done.
“Let’s vote on the merits of a bill that gives us the oversight we need to send a clear message that we are united in our determination to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapons state and potentially igniting a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous tinderbox in the world.
“I urge my colleagues to put politics aside – embrace bipartisanship – and let’s unanimously support this legislation. With that, M. President, I yield the floor.”