Bipartisan Bill Would Allow Congress to Review, Vote on an Obama-Iran Agreement

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor urging Senate Democrats not to filibuster the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015:

“Yesterday the Prime Minister of Israel shared with the Congress and the American people his perspective regarding Israel’s national security interests and the threat the radical regime in Tehran poses to stability in the greater Middle East.  The Prime Minister explained later in the day in a meeting here in the Senate why any agreement that leaves Iran with a threshold nuclear weapons capability is harmful not only to the strategic interests of Israel, but to the United States and our allies.

“Unfortunately, President Obama appears to be pursuing an agreement that is designed to leave the Iranians with a threshold nuclear capability under which they can retain thousands of centrifuges, continue to master the nuclear fuel cycle, advance ballistic missile research and testing, and keep secret any possible military dimensions of nuclear development that has already occurred.   Iran has a record of covertly pursuing aspects of a nuclear weapons program.  The administration has pursued the P5+1 negotiation, not as part of an overall strategy to end Iran’s nuclear program and to defeat its efforts to dominate the region, but as a stand-alone matter of litigation where a settlement must be reached. 

“This negotiation shouldn’t be about getting the best deal that the Iranians will agree to, it should be about the strategic objective of ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  

“Many in the Congress have been wary of what kind of concessions the Obama administration might agree to with the Iranians, and what were the responsible steps to be taken if Iran refused to give up the pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

“Yesterday I began the process to move to legislation that would meet the demands from both sides of the aisle—to give Congress the ability to review and vote on any deal the President agrees to with Iran. 

“From a legislative perspective, given that this bipartisan bill was introduced last week, and that the Foreign Relations Committee has ample time to mark up this bill and send a substitute to the floor, I was surprised that some Senators made statements objecting to their own legislation.  It was surprising to see some members on the other side of the aisle threaten to filibuster their own bill, a bill that they rushed to introduce before the President’s negotiations were complete. This isn’t complicated, a bill was introduced, and as I discussed with the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, it can be marked up, and the committee-passed bill would be the substitute the Senate considers.

“From a policy perspective it makes clear to the administration not to strike a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear state.  And it makes obvious sense to consider the Nuclear Review Act before the deadline for a political agreement, because the Iranians need to know that Congressional sanctions will not be lifted if a bad deal is reached, and some will oppose lifting sanctions if they refuse to disclose the potential military dimensions of their nuclear program. But time is running out: Iran’s foreign minister said today that he believes they are ‘very close’ to a deal.

“There is nothing partisan about the Senate acting to serve its constitutional role in oversight, and in pursuing policies that uphold the national security interest.  It was the Obama administration that decided to negotiate an agreement with Iran that would not be submitted to the Senate as a treaty. The White House went out of its way to bypass the elected representatives of the people in this negotiation with Iran.  It is the Obama administration that is negotiating a deal with the Iranians that will leave them with a nuclear infrastructure. And it is the Corker/Graham/Menendez/Kaine bill that will ensure that Congress will review any deal the President strikes with Iran.

“So to be clear, the actions we’ve taken would allow the sponsors of this sensible, bipartisan legislation to begin the debate next week. And it will allow for the Foreign Relations Committee to follow the regular order and debate and vote on the bill. And if the committee reports a bill, the committee bill will become the text that the full Senate debates. This is the regular order.

“It is my sincere hope that the sponsors of this bill, who will have the opportunity to review and defend their bill in committee, will not filibuster and prevent the full Senate from also acting on their important legislation.

“The Senators who introduced this bill should certainly vote to debate this act.”

Related Issues: Restoring the Senate, National Security, Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel, Iran