WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and co-sponsor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, delivered the following speech on the Senate Floor, as prepared for delivery, objecting to the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s partisan handling of the bill which will bypass committee process and go directly to the Senate floor for debate and vote.
“M. President, I come to the floor to express my disappointment that the Majority Leader is asking to Rule 14 the Bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – I repeat – the bipartisan nuclear review act.
“I ask the Majority Leader, what happened. Where is the bipartisan part? Where is the bipartisanship that we have expressed, and that I expressed this morning on this floor and last night at AIPAC?
“I ask again: what happened to putting aside political posturing and partisanship. What happened to the Majority Leader’s pledge in January to “decentralize power in the Senate” and “open up the legislative process”? “We need to return to regular order,” he said. Then let’s do it. Let’s return to regular order.
“Frankly, this is not what was intended and it certainly is against my better judgment, against procedure, against any understanding we might have had to take the politics out of our effort to establish Congressional oversight of any nuclear agreement with Iran.
“I am more than disappointed. I’m outraged.
“I said just last night – and again this morning – that I have joined Chairman Corker and Senators Graham and Kaine – along with Senators Donnelly, Heitkamp, King, Nelson, Ayotte, Rubio, McCain, and Risch – in introducing bipartisan – bipartisan oversight legislation to ensure that Congress has a chance to review the deal before it goes into effect and to oversee its compliance after it goes into effect. And now – putting any bipartisanship aside – we are back to politics as usual. The only way to make this work is to work together.
“The provisions of the bill are good ones. It would require the President to submit an agreement to Congress within 5 days of reaching it. It would give Congress 60 days to consider the agreement before sanctions relief could be provided. It would outline consequences should Congress decide to disapprove the agreement.
“In terms of oversight, it would require information on potential breaches to be promptly reported to Congress along with a comprehensive report every 180 days of any Iranian action inconsistent with the agreement.
“And it would require a report every 90 days from the President on Iran’s compliance, informing us of any actions that might advance Iran’s nuclear weapons program; that it has not supported or financed or carried out any act of terrorism; and that any sanctions relief is both appropriate and proportionate to Iran’s efforts under the agreement.
“We, in good faith – in good faith, M. President, agreed to introduce this legislation and take it through the Committee process and to the floor so that the Congress – which was responsible for bringing Iran to the table in the first place – would have a role in reviewing the agreement before its goes into effect whether to provide sanctions relief, and overseeing implementation and Iranian compliance after it goes into effect.
“Because – as I said last night – “a deal cannot be built on trust alone.” I was talking about Iran. I did not know that I was also talking about our deal to pass a bipartisan Review Act.
“I can’t imagine why the Majority Leader would seek to short-circuit the process unless their goals were political rather than substantive. I regret to say, his actions on this make clear his intention.
“On a day defined by serious discourse about Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program – at a moment where legislators contemplated the most serious national security issue of our age, I’m disappointed that the Leader has chosen to proceed outside of regular order. By bringing the Corker/Menendez legislation directly to the floor for debate, the Majority Leader is single-handedly undermining our bipartisan efforts.
“Nobody in Congress has worked harder on this issue, and I will not take a back seat to anyone, but I sincerely hope that we can restore regular order, that this bill can be fully considered by all the members of the Foreign Relations Committee in due time.
“There is no emergency, this deal – if there is one – won’t be concluded until almost summer.
“Let’s do this the right way. I know I cannot object to the Rule 14 process under the rules, but I say to my colleagues, if this is the process then I will have no choice but to use my voice and vote against any motion to proceed to the bill.
“With that, M. President, I yield the floor.”