November 24, 2014

Strong Congressional Support for Extension to Iran Negotiations

Several key voices on Capitol Hill have already weighed in with their support of an extension to nuclear negotiations with Iran, including eight members of the House of Representatives that issued a strong joint statement.

Below is a list of quotes from lawmakers that favor an extension:

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee:

“While I had hoped that we would have been able to reach a final deal, I support the extension of the interim deal that maintains a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program and makes progress towards a final deal. The President has made it abundantly clear through his words as well as his actions, that under his leadership the United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.  I firmly support that goal, which is why I support the extension of negotiations.”

“Forcing an outcome that falls short of our goals or walking away from negotiations at this point in time would not be wise.”

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA):

“I welcome the news that American, Iranian, and P5+1 negotiators will extend their talks until June 30, 2015 with the hope of organizing a framework as early as March.  U.S.- Iranian relations have markedly improved since negotiations began one year ago; it is imperative we maintain that positive momentum.

Many in Congress will see this as the end of the road, the signal to toughen up already crippling sanctions. That would be the wrong move, a slap in the face to a year’s worth of hard fought and honest negotiations by U.S. diplomats. Worse still, it could prompt Iran to drive its nuclear program back under ground, bringing us right back to the perilous situation we were faced with one year ago.”

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

“I support the decision to extend nuclear talks with Iran. To this point, the interim agreement reached a year ago has been a net plus as it has maintained the tough sanctions regime, limited Iran’s uranium enrichment and provided inspectors with expanded access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. The extension keeps that interim agreement in place while negotiations continue. But our goal is and should be a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, and because such an agreement is apparently within reach, it is in the interests of the United States and our partners in this endeavor to pursue it.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus:

“Today’s extension is evidence of how far the United States and Iran have come since these negotiations started.  The investment in patient diplomacy made by both countries is yielding significant progress. Iran has already complied with the requirements in the Joint Plan of Action and reduced their capacity to build a nuclear weapon. We are closer than we have ever been to reaching a peaceful agreement and we can’t give up now. I call on Congress to support President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the P5+1 negotiators to close this deal.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA):

“The current framework agreement with Iran is actively reducing Iran’s nuclear program, delaying ‘break out’ capacity, and providing inspections and verification to prevent the advancement of their nuclear program. This extension continues these important restrictions and safeguards while moving us toward a long-term deal that will support our national security and global peace. This extension creates the diplomatic space for that deal to be achieved.”

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI):

“Diplomacy is the only viable path to prevent a nuclear Iran. According to a recent CNN poll, 76 percent of Americans support direct diplomacy as part of a strategy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Americans know that military confrontation—the only alternative to diplomacy—would be, in this instance, counterproductive and carry unacceptable costs in terms of lives and treasure. Congress must support President Obama’s continuing efforts to obtain a strong and verifiable agreement to peacefully prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world’s most volatile region.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA):

“I know it’s difficult to remain patient, but with a historic agreement within our reach, patience is required. I believe it is far better to take a bit more time to get a strong verifiable agreement than to have no agreement or a weak one. I urge all sides to demonstrate the political will, flexibility and courage to get the job done, and done well. I will continue to follow this issue closely.”

 Rep. David Price (D-NC):

“I am encouraged by today’s news from Vienna. This extension means that the negotiations will continue under the terms of the existing Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), which has verifiably frozen and rolled back Iran’s nuclear program over the past year. While I shared the administration’s hope that the talks would yield a final agreement by now, the fact is that another extension is vastly preferable to a return to the pre-JPOA status quo — or worse.  Instead of rushing to declare the talks a failure — or taking actions to derail them altogether — my colleagues in Congress should do everything possible to support the continuation of negotiations and progress toward a final, comprehensive agreement.”

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA):

“It is welcome news that the U.S. and Iranian diplomats have agreed to stay at the negotiating table by extending talks. While some of my colleagues have objected to negotiations with Iran, it must be noted that thanks to these historic diplomatic efforts the world is further from a nuclear-armed Iran, and the risk of an eventual war over this issue. Now more than ever is the time to commit ourselves to diplomacy. We know the outcome of a rush to war. Too many hardline members and members-elect are already opposing a deal, emboldening hardliners in Iran.  What the hardliners do not say, is that failure to reach a deal clears the path to war.”

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA):

“Diplomacy takes time. I continue to believe that the benefits of an eventual agreement with Iran will be worth the wait. Congress must not undermine our negotiators with unwise legislative actions.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL):

“We have seen meaningful progress since the Joint Plan of Action was agreed to in November 2013. Under this plan, Iran has down blended and stopped production of 20% enriched uranium, halted work on its Arak hard water facility, and allowed daily inspections of its enrichment facilities.  None of these achievements would be in place without the Joint Plan of Action, and we shouldn’t abandon this progress today.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:

“I support the decision to continue negotiations as these talks are the only way to peacefully ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”

“I urge my colleagues in Washington to be patient, carefully evaluate the progress achieved thus far and provide U.S. negotiators the time and space they need to succeed. A collapse of the talks is counter to U.S. interests and would further destabilize an already-volatile region.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT):

“As long as talks continue under these conditions, it is important that the United States not be responsible for a breakdown in negotiations, which is why I believe it would be unwise for Congress to pass new sanctions legislation at this time. Iran has adhered to its commitments under the interim agreement. Imposing new sanctions now would be a violation of that agreement by the United States, opening the door for Iran to retaliate by resuming uranium enrichment to 20%, adding new and advanced centrifuges, or other dangerous and escalatory measures.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs:

“The Joint Plan of Action has proved to be a successful interim measure, and I believe some extension is appropriate to allow time and space for further negotiations. Moving forward, I expect to see demonstrable progress toward a robust deal that blocks all potential pathways to a bomb and lays out a comprehensive inspections and verification regime, with no ambiguity on the consequences should Iran cheat.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI):

“The negotiations, which now have been extended, will continue to be governed by an agreement that secures from Iran concessions that amount to the first meaningful limits on its nuclear program in nearly a decade.  Progress was made during this negotiating period, so I believe it’s better for our national security to continue working for an agreement and keeping the pressure on Iran, than to walk away.”

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee: 

As Chairman of the Banking Committee and author of many of the sanctions that helped force Iran to negotiate, I have urged my Senate colleagues to hold off on legislatively imposing new sanctions during ongoing P5+1 negotiations with Iran. While substantial progress has been made, and Iran continues to comply with its agreements, more must be done to give the US and the international community confidence they could detect and stop any move by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, either through a “breakout” using existing nuclear facilities or a “sneak out” using clandestine sites. Having Congress impose new sanctions on Iran or place unworkable timetables and conditions on negotiators now would be grossly counterproductive, potentially shattering the international coalition formed to isolate Iran and escalating toward war.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA):

“I continue to believe that diplomacy is the true path to peace.”

Sen. Angus King (I-ME):

“While the announcement of another extension is disappointing, I look forward to hearing the details of the extension from Administration officials to determine if we are on the right path to achieving our objectives. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but the issues are complex. I encourage our negotiators to stay at the table and explore every pathway to an acceptable resolution.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA):

“I support this extension because it maintains a strong sanctions regime, keeps Iran’s program frozen in place and subject to rigorous inspections, and continues talks toward a peaceful end to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, which is in the best interests of America and the world.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI):

“Members of Congress are right to remain vigilant about ensuring Iran’s full and substantiated compliance with any final deal. Anything less is non-negotiable. But we ought to refrain from taking premature legislative action during these final months that could permanently derail negotiations, undermine the tough multilateral sanctions on Iran, and lead the regime to restart the unrestricted and unmonitored nuclear program that we are determined to end.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA):

“While I remain skeptical of the regime’s intentions and mindful that they have negotiated in bad faith before, it is in our national security interest for the parties to continue their efforts towards reaching a comprehensive agreement. The Administration should work expeditiously to conclude negotiations sooner than the allotted time period; the longer we negotiate, the more sanctions relief the Iranian regime enjoys without having to make new concessions.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL):

“To put it simply, our national security interests and that of our allies are better served with this interim agreement. But it remains just that, an interim agreement, while the parties continue to find the essential elements for a long-term deal.”

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT):

“The agreement reached one year ago – the result of strict sanction regimes by the United States and our allies that I have supported – was a sign of real progress and has helped control Iran’s nuclear program. The extension of this system is preferable to agreeing to a bad deal or walking away empty-handed, which would threaten the future security of the United States, Israel and the region.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA):

“It is critical that a comprehensive and verifiable agreement be reached to halt any capacity for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. While I am disappointed that the P5+1 nations have not yet reached a permanent agreement with Iran, I do support an extension of the talks. However, it is absolutely imperative that we maintain the economic sanctions that continue to hold Iran accountable.”

Rep. Kathy Castor, (D-FL):

“While the delay in negotiations relating to Iran’s nuclear disarmament is disappointing, it is vital that the lead negotiators — United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — continue to press for a diplomatic resolution to ensure that Iran fully commits to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.”

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